According to the joint press release by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, new home sales increased a seasonally adjusted 3.3 percent in April compared to March. This percentage rate equates to an annual sale volume of 343,000 homes. The agencies revised the sales figure for March to 332,000 units. Home buying also came in 9.9 percent higher than April 2011, when the government estimated 312,000 units sold on an annualized basis.
The report calculates the average sales price for homes sold at $282,000 and a median sales price of $235,000. In addition, based on the 146,000 unsold new houses counted at the end of April, and at the current sales rate, the inventory would take 5.1 months to sell. The available supply increased 1.4 % over the unsold inventory for March.
Regional Sales Activities
The new home sales report measures sale activities in four regions of the country: Northeast, Midwest, South and West. Following is a breakdown of sales for each area:
- Northeast – 28, 000 units
- Midwest -- 50,000- units
- South – 177,000 units
- West – 88, 000 units
Three regions experience sales increases over March -- Northeast (7.7%), Midwest (28.2%) and West (27.5%). Home sales in the South region declined -10.6% on a month-over-month basis. The percentage change for sales year-to-date came in at Northeast (16.7%), Midwest (22%), South (4.7%) and West (12.85).
Guarded Optimism Regarding Market Recovery
The increase in new home sales has not reached the heights attained before the market peaked, when the annual rate reached nearly 1.4 million units. However, the monthly rate recorded in April exceeds the 339,000 sales predicted by market analysts at Briefing.com. Robert Toll, the chairman of Toll Brothers, the largest luxury homebuilder in America, said that his company experienced the best spring for new home sales since the collapse of the housing market. Toll said that some regions of the country have a “buyers’ market,” but cautions against becoming overly optimistic.
According to Weiss Research housing market analyst Mike Larson, the new cycle in the housing market will depend on the job market and the level of “confidence.” Larson said that both of these economic indicators have shown “slow improvement.”
NAHB Improving Market Index
The National Association of Builders (NAHB) Improving Market Index (IMI), which monitors housing market around the country, also reveals an improving economic climate. The IMI measures monthly metrics for employment, housing price growth and single-family home expansion in 360 U.S. markets. The index shows that 100 of the 360 areas have shown improvement in May—down from 101 in April. When the NAHB released the first index in September 2011, only 12 markets appeared on the improvement list.
The chief economist of NAHB, David Crowe, attributes the progress in these markets to a lower rate of foreclosure and short sale activities and stronger local economies. Crowe expects new home sales to continue increasing at a gradual single-digit rate each month until the market returns its standard condition.