New home sales blast past expectations

More people are buying: Sales of new homes hit their highest level since last September.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer

chart_new_home_sales_082609.03.gif
Life after foreclosure
After losing their homes, these 4 families thought they'd never recover. They've found it difficult to rent and their credit is wrecked, but life is looking up.
Lured back to prime neighborhoods
Thanks to sinking home prices, these 5 homebuyers were able to score deals in areas they couldn't previously afford.
Mortgage Rates
30 yr fixed 3.96%
15 yr fixed 3.07%
5/1 ARM 3.20%
30 yr refi 3.96%
15 yr refi 3.08%

Find personalized rates:
 

Rates provided by Bankrate.com.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Sales of newly constructed homes leaped unexpectedly in July to hit their highest level since last September.

New homes sold at an annualized rate of 433,000 during the month, according to a joint report issued by the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That far exceeded analysts' forecasts and was up 9.6% from the revised 395,000 rate recorded in June. A consensus of industry experts surveyed by Briefing.com had predicted July sales of 390,000.

The news followed other positive housing market reports earlier this month, including a spike in existing home sales, home prices and affordability.

"There are many economic conditions that led to the surge," said Bob Walters, chief economist for Quicken Loans. "But certainly low mortgage rates, huge price reductions on the high inventory of new builds, and the first-time homebuyer tax credit have been instrumental in getting consumers to take the plunge into the real estate pool of opportunity."

Plus, the psychology of the market is changing, according to Peter Morici, an economics professor at the University of Maryland. "The notion that prices will drift down forever is gone," he said. "Now people are thinking the window of opportunity will not be open forever."

"Home shoppers visiting builders' model homes are more likely to purchase than earlier in the year," added Brad Hunter, chief economist for Metrostudy, a real estate research and consulting firm.

They are also canceling fewer contracts. Of the 10 markets where Hunter examines cancellation rates, most are running at substantially lower levels. In Phoenix, for example, the cancellation rate lately has been about 4% compared with 7% late last year.

It certainly is an attractive market. The median price of a new home declined again last month to $210,100, down only slightly from June but off more than 11% from July 2008.

The Housing Market Index, a measure of builder confidence calculated by the National Association of Homebuilders and Wells Fargo, inched up again this month to 18, its highest level in more than a year.

That's still low by normal standards: Anything below 50 indicates that more builders think business conditions are poor. And new sales, though rising, are still well below what they were last August, when they sold at a 520,000 annualized rate.

But the sales spike did help reduce the inventory: Available new homes dropped to 271,000 -- the lowest total in 16 years -- from 281,000 a month earlier. That's down to a healthier 7.5 month supply at the current rate of sales from 8.8 months in June.

Still, when factoring in existing homes for sale, inventory levels remain high, according to Mike Larson, real estate analyst for Weiss Research. He also pointed out that the continued influx of foreclosed properties over the next year or so will replenish supplies.

However, supply could creep back up at the end of the year. On Nov. 30, the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers is also set to expire. And experts worry that the brisk pace of sales will fall off if homebuyers are sidelined once the incentive disappears.

But for now, they are optimistimic."This [report] is clear evidence the dramatic cut back in housing starts, plus increasing consumer confidence and the targeted tax cut for first-time buyers, is restoring stability to the new home market," said Larson.  To top of page

Find mortgage rates in your area


Features
They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
More Galleries
5 ways retailers are tracking you If you think pesky salespeople are invading your personal space, check out these 5 technologies that are tracking your movements throughout a store. More
Moto X vs. Droid Turbo: Which Droid should you buy? Motorola has made the two best Android smartphones this year. Here's how they stack up. More
My part-time job is a dead end, but it's all I can find CNNMoney profiles 4 of America's 7 million part-time workers unable to find full-time jobs. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.