An estimated 1.06 million new single-family homes were sold in 2006, down about 17.3 percent compared to 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today.

In December, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of new single-family home sales was about 1.12 million, which is 11 percent below the December 2005 estimate and 4.8 percent above the November rate. This rate is a projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in sales activity.

The median sales price of new houses sold in December 2006 was $235,000, down 1.5 percent compared to December 2005. The average sales price was $290,100, which is comparable to the $290,200 average sales price in December 2005.

According to preliminary data, the median price of new homes for the full year in 2006 was $245,300, up 1.8 percent compared to the 2005 median price, and the average price was $304,700, also up 1.8 percent compared to 2005.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of December was 537,000, which represents a supply of 5.9 months at the current sales rate.

Regionally, new-home sales fell about 25.4 percent in the West, 21 percent in the Northeast, 20.5 percent in the Midwest and 11.1 percent in the South for the full year in 2006 compared to 2005.

The agencies noted that statistics are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability as well as nonsampling error including bias and variance from response, nonreporting, and undercoverage.

Changes in seasonally adjusted statistics often show irregular movement and it can take six months to establish a trend for new houses sold. Preliminary new-home sales figures are subject to revision due to the survey methodology and definitions used, according to the report.

The survey is primarily based on a sample of houses selected from building permits. Since a “sale” is defined as a deposit taken or sales agreement signed, this can occur prior to a permit being issued. On average, the preliminary seasonally adjusted estimate of total sales is revised about 3 percent.

Also, the agencies noted that changes in sales price data reflect changes in the distribution of houses by region, size and other factors, as well as changes in the prices of houses with identical characteristics.

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