Sales of new single-family homes dropped to a record-low estimate of 374,000 homes sold in 2009, down about 22.9 percent from the previous year, federal agencies reported today. In U.S. Census Bureau records dating back to 1963, annual new-home sales have never dropped below 400,000.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales in December, at 342,000, fell both year-over-year and month-to-month. This rate, a projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted for typical seasonal fluctuations in sales activity, is an estimated 7.6 percent below the revised November figure and an estimated 8.6 percent below the December 2008 rate, Census and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported.

Sales of new single-family homes dropped to a record-low estimate of 374,000 homes sold in 2009, down about 22.9 percent from the previous year, federal agencies reported today. In U.S. Census Bureau records dating back to 1963, annual new-home sales have never dropped below 400,000.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales in December, at 342,000, fell both year-over-year and month-to-month. This rate, a projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted for typical seasonal fluctuations in sales activity, is an estimated 7.6 percent below the revised November figure and an estimated 8.6 percent below the December 2008 rate, Census and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported.

"The sobering realities of a weak economy and job market continued to drag on consumers’ willingness to go forward with a purchase near the end of 2009. We do, however, expect more buyers to begin taking advantage of the new tax credit in the coming months," said Bob Jones, newly elected chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in a statement.

More than half (52 percent, or 178,000) of December’s projected rate of home sales occurred in the South, which represents a 7.6 percent decline in sales for the region from December 2008. Almost a quarter, 23.6 percent, or 81,000, occurred in the West, which is a 12 percent decrease from the same period the year before.

Sales in the Midwest and Northeast each made up about the same share of sales in December, at 12.6 percent and 12 percent, respectively. In the Midwest, this represents a 27.1 percent decrease in the year-over-year sales rate, while in the Northeast, the sales rate sales actually increased 33.3 percent from December 2008.

Inventory fell year-over-year with 231,000 new houses for sale in December, which represents a supply of 8.1 months at the current sales rate, from 350,000 in December 2008, which then represented a supply of 11.2 months. Current inventory is the lowest it’s been in nearly 40 years, according to the home builders association.

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