Sales of new single-family homes sank to a new low for the second consecutive month in February, according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 308,000 last month, down an estimated 2.2 percent from January’s upwardly revised figure of 315,000, the previous record low. The bureau’s historical sales records reach back to January 1963.

Sales also fell an estimated 13 percent from February 2009’s rate of 354,000, the report said.

"The very slow pace of new-home sales in February was partly due to unusually poor weather conditions, but was also tied to consumers’ ongoing concerns about the poor job market and sluggish economy," said Bob Jones, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, in a statement.

Jones said the association expected to see improvement in consumer demand as the deadline for the federal homebuyer tax credit nears. In order to qualify, homebuyers must sign a purchase contract by April 30 and close the transaction by June 30.

"Going forward, other factors, such as pent-up demand, new household formations among echo-boomers, and excellent affordability conditions will support a 20 percent gain in new-home sales this year compared to 2009," Jones added.

Around the country, every region but the West saw month-to-month declines: an estimated -20 percent in the Northeast, -18 percent in the Midwest, and -4.6 percent in the South. …CONTINUED

Sales in the West rose an estimated 20.8 percent month-to-month and 34.8 percent year-over year — the only year-over-year regional increase.

Northeast sales, which made up 9.1 percent of total sales, remained flat year-over-year. Sales in the Midwest, which made up 13.3 percent of total sales, fell 18 percent year-over-year.

Sales in the South, which made up 47.4 percent of total sales, fell a steep 29.5 percent from February 2009.

The new houses sold for a median $220,500, up from a median of $203,500 in January; the average price was $282,600, also up from January’s $245,200.

About 73 percent of sales were for homes under $300,000.

There were a seasonally adjusted 236,000 new homes for sale at the end of February, the report said — a supply of 9.2 months at the current sales rate, up from January’s supply of 9.1 months. An inventory of six months signals a rough equilibrium between a buyer’s market and a seller’s market; an inventory above six months indicates a buyer’s market.

February’s non-seasonally adjusted sales rate for new homes rose to an estimated 24,000, from 22,000 in January. Every region stayed flat except for the West, which accounted for the 2,000-unit increase.


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