New-home sales virtually flat in may

WASHINGTON, June 24 -- Sales of newly built, single-family homes in May held virtually even with the previous month, declining less than one percentage point to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 342,000 units, according to data released by the U.S. Commerce Department today.

"In the midst of the prime home buying season, builders report that a number of factors are limiting new-home sales. These include consumer concerns about job security, potential buyers' inability to sell their existing homes, and problems with appraisals coming in too low," said Joe Robson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Tulsa, Okla. "The latter issue is directly related to the use of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) as comps, which disproportionately impacts assessed values of nearby homes."

"Today's report provides further evidence that the recovery is going to be a slow one as the housing market continues to bump along, trying to find a bottom," added NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "The good news is that, even as the sales pace leveled in May, inventories of unsold new homes continued to shrink for a 25th consecutive month - a trend that is helping bring supply and demand into better alignment and thereby setting the stage for an eventual market recovery."

New-home sales declined 0.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 342,000 units in May. Meanwhile, the number of new homes for sale fell 2.3 percent to 292,000, which is a 10.2-month supply at the current sales pace.

Regionally, the decline in new-home sales was entirely focused on the South, where sales fell 8.5 percent for the month. Meanwhile, sales of new homes gained 1.3 percent in the West and posted double-digit gains of 28.6 percent and 18.6 percent in the Northeast and Midwest, respectively.

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