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New-home sales hit record low

Every region but the West sees declines

Sales of new single-family homes sank to a new low for the second consecutive month in February, according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 308,000 last month, down an estimated 2.2 percent from January’s upwardly revised figure of 315,000, the previous record low. The bureau’s historical sales records reach back to January 1963.

Sales also fell an estimated 13 percent from February 2009’s rate of 354,000, the report said.

"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, in a statement.

Jones said the association expected to see improvement in consumer demand as the deadline for the federal homebuyer tax credit nears. In order to qualify, homebuyers must sign a purchase contract by April 30 and close the transaction by June 30.

"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," Jones added.

Around the country, every region but the West saw month-to-month declines: an estimated -20 percent in the Northeast, -18 percent in the Midwest, and -4.6 percent in the South. …CONTINUED