New-home sales decline in February


WASHINGTON, March 24 — Sales of newly built, single-family homes fell 2.2 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 308,000 units, the Commerce Department reported March 24. While this figure marked a new record low for overall sales activity, only one region (the South) hit its own record low.

“The very slow pace of new-home sales in February was partly due to unusually poor weather conditions, but was also tied to consumers’ ongoing concerns about the poor job market and sluggish economy,” said Bob Jones, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder from Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

“Unusually bad weather certainly played a role in the large regional declines depicted in today’s new-home sales report,” agreed NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “In addition, many potential buyers remained nervous about their job security and their ability to qualify for a mortgage in light of tight underwriting standards. That said, we are still expecting to see some improvement in consumer demand as the deadline for taking advantage of home buyer tax credits nears. Going forward, other factors such as pent-up demand, new household formations among echo-boomers and excellent affordability conditions will support a 20 percent gain in new-home sales this year compared to 2009.”

While nationwide home sales fell to a record low in February, two out of four regions actually posted gains and all but the South remained above their record lows. Sales inched up 2 percent in the Midwest and 20.8 percent in the West, but declined by a respective 20 percent and 4.6 percent in the storm-battered Northeast and South.

The nationwide inventory of new homes on the market rose by a marginal 1.3 percent in February, to 236,000 units. Due to the slower sales pace, the month’s supply of new homes for sale rose from 8.9 in January to 9.2 in February.

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