New single-family home sales dropped to the lowest rate in February since 1995, and sales were down about 29.8 percent from the February 2007 rate, the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of new single-family home sales was 590,000 in February — this rate is a projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in sales activity.

It was the lowest rate since the February 1995 rate of 559,000, and the rate has fallen 59.8 percent from its record peak of 1.39 million in July 2005.

The February rate is down about 1.8 percent from its January 2008 rate, though the Census Bureau notes that the sales rates can show irregular month-to-month movement and it can take up to five months to establish a trend.

The supply of new, single-family for-sale homes was estimated at 9.8 months in February, which means it would take about 9.8 months to exhaust the for-sale supply of new single-family homes at the February sales rate.

This supply gauge, unchanged since January and up 21 percent compared to February 2007, represents the highest level since October 1981, when there was an estimated 10.3 months’ supply.

The median sales price of new houses sold in February 2008 was $244,100, down 2.7 percent from the February 2007 median sales price of $250,800. And the average sales price in February was $296,400, down 7.8 percent from the February 2007 average sales price of $321,500.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Realtors reported that sales of resale homes reached an adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million in February, which was down 23.8 percent compared to February 2007 and up slightly since January 2008.

The median U.S. resale home price was $195,900 in February, down 8.2 percent compared to February 2007. The average resale home price dropped 7 percent year-over-year in February to $241,900.

And the estimated supply of resale homes for sale in February was 9.6 months, up 39.1 percent compared to February 2007.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight reported that U.S. home prices dropped 3 percent in January compared to January 2007, and fell 1.1 percent since December 2007.

And a separate Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller price index reported a 10.7 percent year-over-year drop in home prices in January for a group of 20 major U.S. metro areas.

The Census Bureau and HUD noted that new-home sales statistics are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability and nonsampling error including bias and variance from response, nonreporting, and undercoverage.

Preliminary new-home sales figures are subject to revision and the preliminary seasonally adjusted estimate of total sales is revised about 4 percent, on average.

New residential sales data for March 2008 will be released at 10 a.m. EDT on April 24.


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