The for-sale inventory of new single-family homes bloated to its highest level in 27 years in January, as sales of new single-family homes slipped to the lowest adjusted annual rate in about 13 years, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today.

The supply of new, single-family for-sale homes reached 9.9 months in January, which means it would take nearly 10 months to sell all of those homes at the January sales pace. It was the largest supply since October 1981, when there was an estimated 10.3 months’ supply of single-family new homes for sale

Single-family new-home sales in January dipped to a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 588,000, which is 33.9 percent below the January 2007 rate and 2.8 percent below the December 2007 rate. This rate is a projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in sales activity. The January rate was the lowest since it fell to 559,000 in February 1995, and it has fallen about 57.7 from its peak of 1.39 million in July 2005.

The median price of new single-family homes was $216,000 in January, the lowest level since it reached $211,600 in September 2004. The January median price was 15.1 percent below the median price in January 2007, and it was down 4.3 percent from December 2007.

New homes spent a median 6.7 months on the sales market in January — the highest level since May 1992, when homes spent a median 7.1 months on market.

Regionally, the adjusted annual sales rate for new single-family homes dropped about 56 percent in the Midwest, 34.8 percent in the South, 16.5 percent in the West and 16.1 percent in the Northeast in January 2008 compared to January 2007.

On Monday, the National Association of Realtors trade group reported that the median price of single-family resale homes slid 5.1 percent in January compared to the same month last year, and the median price for all resale homes — including single-family homes, condos and co-ops — fell 4.6 percent during that period.

The Census Bureau and HUD agencies noted in the report that statistics are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability and nonsampling error including bias and variance from response, nonreporting and undercoverage. Changes in seasonally adjusted statistics often show irregular movement, the agencies also reported, 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 4 percent.

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