New home sales second slowest on record in August, unchanged
from a month earlier
Sales of new homes had their second-worst month on record in
August, signaling that the housing market will remain a drag on the
Last month's new home sales were unchanged from a month earlier at
a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 288,000, the Commerce
Department said Friday. Sales were down by 29 percent from the same
month a year earlier.
Normally the building industry powers economic recoveries. Each new
home built creates, on average, the equivalent of three jobs for a
year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the
National Association of Home Builders.
But housing has been at the center of this downturn and it shows no
signs of recovering quickly.
The only time new home sales were slower was in May, when the sales
pace was 282,000. That's the worst pace on records dating back to
1963. July's results had been the worst on record, but were
High unemployment, tight credit and uncertainty about home prices
have kept people from buying homes. Government tax credits boosted
the market earlier in the year, but those expired in April.
The median sales price in August was $204,700. That was down 1.2
percent from a year earlier and the lowest since December 2003.
Gains in Western and Northeastern states canceled out losses in the
Midwest and South. Sales grew by more than 54 percent in the West
and by 17 percent in the Northeast. They fell 26 percent in the
Midwest and 11 percent in the South.
Builders are competing with millions of foreclosures and other
distressed properties that show no signs of abating. They are
unlikely to ramp up construction until those are cleared away and
demand for new homes picks up.
The number of unsold new homes on the market fell to 206,000, the
lowest since August 1968. At the current sales pace, it would take
about 8.6 months to exhaust that supply.
The industry is suffering the repercussions of a massive building
boom, in which many homes were sold to speculators. They then
resold the homes, often to borrowers who took out risky loans and
then defaulted. Those unsustainable boom times aren't coming
Economists at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch predict that spending
on building and remodeling homes will decline in the July-September
quarter and actually subtract 0.7 percentage points from overall
Home construction is up 25 percent from the bottom in April 2009,
it is still 74 percent below the peak in January 2006. Written by:
Alan Zibel, AP Real Estate Writer