The rate of new single-family home sales dropped about 23.5 percent in March compared to the same month last year, while the median price rose about 6.4 percent, the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of new single-family home sales was 858,000 in March. This rate is based on the projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in sales activity. This rate is up 2.6 percent compared to February.

The median sales price of new houses sold in March 2007 was $254,000, up about 6.4 percent from $238,800 in March 2006. The average sales price in March 2007 was $330,900, up about 10.7 percent compared to March 2006.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of March was 545,000, which represents a supply of 7.8 months at the current sales rate. This supply is up about 27.9 percent compared to the supply in March 2006.

A supply greater than six months is generally indicative of a buyer’s market.

Regionally, new-home sales dropped about 29.6 percent in the West, 25.7 percent in the South and 19.3 percent in the Midwest while rising an estimated 18 percent in the Northeast.

Statistics are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability as well as nonsampling error, the agencies noted.

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. 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, according to the report. On average, the preliminary seasonally adjusted estimate of total sales is revised about 3 percent.

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