The rate of new single-family home sales in February dropped to its lowest level since August 2000, falling about 18.3 percent compared to the same month last year and dropping 3.9 percent compared to January 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today.

The median sales price dropped from $250,800 in February 2006 to $250,000 in February 2007 and increased 2.8 percent compared to January 2007, while the average price rose from $307,900 in February 2006 to $331,000 in February 2007 and rose 6.7 percent compared to January 2007.

Sales of new single-family houses reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 848,000 in February, which ties the August 2000 rate. This rate is a projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in sales activity.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of February was 546,000, which represents a supply of about 8.1 months at the current sales rate. A six-month supply is generally indicative of a market that is roughly balanced for buyers and sellers, while a supply greater than six months can indicate a market that favors buyers.

Regionally, new-home sales dropped about 36.9 percent in the Northeast, 32.2 percent in the Midwest, 17.1 percent in the South and 5.7 percent in the West in February compared to the same month last year, the agencies reported.

Last week, the National Association of Realtors reported that the rate of existing-home sales dropped 3.6 percent and the median price fell 1.3 percent compared to February 2006.

Statistics in the new-home sales report are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability as well as nonsampling error. Changes in seasonally adjusted statistics often show irregular movement, the agencies reported, and it can take six months to establish a trend for new houses sold. Preliminary new-home sales figures are subject to revision, and 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, according to the report.

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