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New Home Sales in January at Highest Level Since 2008

by Reno Manuele

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New home sales posted some of their best numbers in four years in January, with sales rising 15.6 percent from the month before.

New home sales posted very encouraging numbers in January, rising 15.6 percent from December to January and 28.9 percent from January 2012, according to the latest analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Though new home sales do remain historically low, the monthly increase was the biggest since April 1993, and the current sales rate for new home sales – the annual rate of 437,000 shattered analysts’ expectations of 381,000 – is the strongest rate since 2008.

New Home Sales Positive in January, Prices Down

Interestingly, though new homes sales put up such great numbers in January, the sales prices for new homes were down a bit in January:

  • The median sales prices for new homes in January was $226,400, down from $248,900 in December, a decline of 9 percent.
  • Similarly, the average sales price was down 5.8 percent, falling from $304,000 to $286,300.
  • Too much should not be made of those declines, though; home prices typically decline during the wintry months, so seasonal pressures could very well be to blame for the declines.

Brian Brunhofer, the owner of Meritus Homes, said that he’s seen a marked increase in interest among homebuyers for new construction in the last few months.

“We have definitely experienced a significant increase in activity,” Brunhofer said. “We’ve seen more sales contacts in the last four months than the previous year, year and a half.”

The reason for this increase, Brunhofer said, is simple: consumer confidence in the housing market and the greater economy is strengthening, and after putting their lives on hold during the economic downturn, consumers are itching to move on and make new purchases.

New Housing Inventory Remains Competitive

Also, those declines in sale prices could be temporary, given that new housing inventory, like existing-home inventory, continues to decline. In January, the Census Bureau found only 150,000 new homes for sale; that’s down 15 percent from December, and represents a supply of just 4.1 months.

As this graph from Calculated Risk shows, that’s the lowest level of inventory for new homes since 2005, and should new housing inventory continue to fall, it could very well approach the historic lows of 1998 and 2003.

It’s worth reflecting, though, on what a dramatic turnaround this represents for the new construction marketplace. In late 2008/early 2009, as the economy teetered, new housing inventory soared, hitting 12.1 months of supply in January 2009 as fewer and fewer consumers were willing to buy the vast stretches of newly-built homes that littered subdivisions across the U.S.

Now, though, the situation has reversed, and the new construction seems poised to move forward as the housing market slowly recovers.

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