- By David M. Kinchen
Following a substantial gain in July, the pace of new home sales held virtually unchanged at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 373,000 units in August, according to a report released Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 by HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau.
“New-home sales in August effectively tied the pace they set in the previous month, when they were the strongest we’ve seen in more than two years — so this is really a continuation of the good news we’ve been getting on the housing front,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. “Looking at the big picture, sales have been trending gradually upward since the middle of last year as favorable interest rates and prices have driven more consumers to get back in the market for a newly built home.”
“This latest report indicates that new-home sales continue to run at a steady pace that’s well ahead of what we were seeing this time last year, and at this rate, the third quarter of 2012 is going to be well ahead of the second quarter,” noted NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “That said, the razor-thin inventory of new homes for sale is very concerning because it indicates that builders aren’t able to access the credit they need to build new homes as demand for them improves.”
Crowe also observed that the share of new homes sold in the higher price ranges ($400,000 and above) rose significantly in August. “This reflects the fact that people who are able to buy homes right now are those in higher-income ranges who have cash and equity on hand, while first-time buyers are having a tougher time getting qualified for a mortgage,” he said.
Regionally, new-home sales gained in all but one area of the country this August, with the Northeast, Midwest and West posting increases of 20 percent, 1.8 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively. The South was the only region to post a decline, of 4.9 percent.
Meanwhile, the inventory of new homes for sale held at an historic low of just 141,000 units in August, which is a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace.
The news on new home sales comes a few days after a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that existing-home sales continued to improve in August and the national median price rose on a year-over-year basis for the sixth straight month.
The NAR report shows that total existing-home sales 7.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million in August from 4.47 million in July, and are 9.3 percent higher than the 4.41 million-unit level in August 2011.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $187,400 in August, up 9.5 percent from a year ago. The last time there were six back-to-back monthly price increases from a year earlier was from December 2005 to May 2006. The August increase was the strongest since January 2006 when the median price rose 10.2 percent from a year earlier.
Also, record low mortgage interest rates are fueling the housing recovery: According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.60 percent in August from a record low 3.55 percent in July; the rate was 4.27 percent in August 2011.