November new-home sales signals strong end to year

Sales of new single-family homes were at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 719,000 in November, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That’s 1.3% higher than October’s revised rate of 710,000 and is 16.9% above the pace set during November 2018. While the monthly gain is a small one, the sales pace itself is strong, teasing a stout end to the year and adding to the market fitness of 2020 as a whole.

“In a year that’s been choppy at times, new home sales more than pulled their weight in the back half of 2019,” said Zillow economist Matthew Speakman. “Even though some of the starch from prior months’ strong initial data has been washed out through downward revisions, 2019 will go down as the best year for new home sales since before the Great Recession.”

Year-to-date, 2019’s new-home sales estimate sits 9.8% above the YTD total at the same time in 2018. According to National Association of Home Builders chief economist Robert Dietz, the gain returns the sales pace to the general trend line it has followed since the end of the economic downturn.

Speakman added that, coupled with persistently healthy demand, the new-home sales report portends optimism next year.

“Homebuilder optimism is at a two-decade high, driven by a growing sense that strong demand for new homes will persist,” he said. “And construction levels have accelerated in recent months, blowing past expectations and reaching 12-year highs in both starts and permits at different times in the last three months. Notable headwinds remain, but steady construction rates and new home sales volume should continue to boost the housing market into the New Year.”

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of November was 323,000 — flat from October but down considerably from last year. Dietz, however, noted that supply was at a “healthy level” of 5.4 months, as inventory continues to stabilize after declining from January to August. Still, the number of newly completed, ready-to-occupy homes is currently just 76,000 nationwide.

The median sales price of new houses sold in November was $330,800, rising as inventory remains tight but hovering within the range where it has stayed through all of 2019. The average sales price was $388,200.


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