The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Thursday morning that sales of new homes in February increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 667,000, a rise of 4.9% from the revised January rate of 636,000 and an increase of 0.6% compared with the February 2018 rate of 663,000. The consensus estimate from a survey of economists expected a rate of around 615,000. The January 2019 rate was revised upward by 29,000.
The sharp increase comes after declines in the prior two months and could be a good sign going into the spring home-buying season. Inventory is up 13.3% year over year but slightly lower month over month (down 0.6%).
At their peak in 2005, new home sales posted a seasonally adjusted annual rate of nearly 1.4 million.
The Census Bureau also reported that the median sales price for new homes sold in January slipped by $1,900 to $315,300, and the average sales price rose month over month by $6,500 to $379,600. At the end of February, the number of new homes for sale on a seasonally adjusted basis totaled 340,000, down by 2,000 month over month, and represented a supply of 6.1 months at the current sales rate.
In February, 46% of the estimated 56,000 monthly total were sales for homes priced at less than $300,000. The percentage is up one point from December.
Sales of homes priced between $300,000 and $399,999 remained unchanged at 25% of all sales. Sales of homes in the range of $400,000 to $499,999 rose by a point to 13% of the total, and sales rose by three points for homes sold in a range of $500,000 to $749,999. Home sales for properties priced above $750,000 accounted for 4% of all new home sales in February, unchanged compared with January.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, year-over-year new home sales are up 0.6% nationally. In the South year-over-year new home sales rose 6.8%; in the Northeast sales are down more than 28%; in the Midwest, sales are down 3.8%; and in the West, sales fell by 2.9%.
On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, homes sold in the South rose by 3,000 to 33,000 month over month in February. Home sales were also up by 2,000 to 6,000 in the Midwest, while sales in the Northeast rose from 2,000 to 3,000. Sales in the West rose by 2,000 to a total of 15,000.
The for-sale inventory at the end of the month was up by 1,000 in the Northeast to 28,000 and down by 1,000 in the Midwest at 41,000. In the South new homes for sale fell by 4,000 to 176,000 while supply in the West dropped by 3,000 to 90,000.
It’s worth noting that the monthly totals are subject to multiple revisions and those revisions are often significant.