Post by twk on Apr 23, 2014 9:18:40 GMT -6
Sales of new single-family homes dropped sharply last month, falling 14.5% to their weakest level since mid-2013, the Census Bureau said Wednesday.
The annual sales rate was 384,000, down from February's revised pace of 449,000. The original estimate was 440,000.
Economists had predicted an annual rate of 450,000 for March, according to the median forecast in Action Economics survey.
Harsh winter weather helped hold down sales in February and may have in March as well. March sales in the Midwest fell 21.5% from February, 16.7% in the West and 14.4% in the South. They rose 12.5% in the Northeast.
But affordability is also an issue as both sales prices and mortgage rates have ticked up over the past year. The Census Bureau said the median price of new homes sold last month was $290,000 -- that's 13% higher, or $32,500 more, than the median price in March 2013.
Although the housing market typically improves this time of year, the spring buying season has shown little strength so far this year.
The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that existing home sales last month fell 0.2% to an annual rate of 4.59 million. That was the third straight monthly decline and the lowest annual sales rate since July 2012.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index was 47 in April, about where it's been for three months. Readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good.
Last year, the average monthly rate for new homes was 431,000, a level better than in past years, but still less than half the 1-million-plus average the industry saw from 2000 through 2006.