New home sales down in January

Sales of new single-family homes fell 2.8 percent in January from 605,000 in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 588,000, according to estimates released jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This number also represented a 33.9 percent decline from the January 2007 estimate of 890,000.

The median sales price of new houses sold in January was $216,000, down 4.3 percent from November. The average sales price rose, however, 3.25 percent month-over-month to $276,600.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of January was 482,000. This represents a supply of 9.9 months at the current sales rate. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), it's the highest supply level since April 1982.

“While home builders are reporting some glimmers of buyer interest starting to develop, many consumers are still firmly planted on the fence, waiting for just the right incentive to make their move,” said Sandy Dunn, president of the NAHB. Dunn went on to express support for a federal economic stimulus program, adding, “Such action would reduce the inventory of units on the market and help restore housing to its historic role as a primary engine of economic growth.”

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