The sales rate of new single-family homes dropped in May to the lowest level for that month since 2001, the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today, and fell 15.8 percent compared to May 2006.

The agencies reported a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 915,000 new single-family home sales in May, compared to 930,000 in April and 1.09 million in May 2006. This rate is a projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in sales activity.

The May 2007 annual adjusted sales rate is the lowest since May 2001, when it was 884,000.

On Monday, the National Association of Realtors trade group reported that the annual adjusted rate of existing-home sales dropped 10.3 percent and the median existing-home price fell 2.1 percent compared to May 2006.

For the first five months of the year, new-home sales were down 21.1 percent compared to the same period in 2006, according to data that is not seasonally adjusted.

The median sales price of new houses sold in May 2007 was $236,100, down 0.88 percent compared to May 2006. The average sales price was $313,000, up 6.5 percent compared to May 2006.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of May was 536,000, which represents a supply of 7.1 months at the May sales rate. This compares to a supply of 6.2 months in May 2006. A supply greater than six months can be indicative of a buyer’s market.

Statistics are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability and errors such as bias and variance from response, nonreporting, and undercoverage, the agencies noted.

Changes in seasonally adjusted statistics can show irregular movement, according to the report, and it can take five months to establish a trend for new houses sold. On average, the preliminary seasonally adjusted estimate of total sales is revised about 3 percent.

Also, changes in sales price data reflect changes in the distribution of houses by region, size, etc., and changes in the prices of houses with identical characteristics.

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