Good News for Housing -- April New Home Sales Surge

Housing development
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The U.S. Census Bureau Friday morning released data on new single-family home sales for April. Sales rose 6.4% month-over-month, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 433,000, from an upwardly revised March sales figure of 407,000. The revised March estimate added 23,000 sales from the original estimate of 384,000.

Economists had been expecting a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 420,000 for April. The April rate is 4.2% below the rate for April 2013. At the peak in 2005, new home sales posted a seasonally adjusted annual rate of nearly 1.4 million.

The April report included new seasonal adjustments to the sales rate for each month since January 2012. The revised data show that new home purchases were slightly weaker from the second half of last year through February of this year. The overall sales estimates for 2013 were unaffected, according to a Commerce Department spokesperson.

The Census Bureau also reported that the median sales price for new homes sold in April was $275,800 and the average sales price was $320,010. Both prices are down sharply from the previous month, with the median falling nearly $15,000 and the average down about $24,000. At the end of April, the number of new homes for sale slipped from a March total of 193,000 to 192,000, a supply of 5.3 months at the current sales rate.

The median and average prices dropped sharply in April, after posting a steep climb in March. The median price is down nearly $15,000, and the average price tumbled more than $13,000.

Lower prices helped sales in April, as did somewhat lower mortgage loan rates. The inventory of existing homes is rising and sales of existing homes in April posted a month-over-month gain for the first time this year.

Homebuilder stocks are reacting positively to the report. Meritage Homes Corp. (NYSE: MTH) has added about 2.5% today. Year to date, Meritage is down about 19%. Shares traded Friday at $39.42, in a 52-week range of $37.19 to $51.63.

Another homebuilder, PulteGroup Inc. (NYSE: PHM) traded about 2.5% higher as well Friday morning, at $19.72 in a 52-week range of $14.23 to $23.45. Year to date, PulteGroup’s shares are down about 4.3%.

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