Sales of newly built, single-family homes posted a yearly gain of 1.5% in 2018, according to newly released data by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. The December sales numbers rose 3.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 621,000 units after a downwardly revised November report.
The sales report was delayed due to the partial government shutdown.
"The slight gain for 2018 new home sales reflects solid underlying demand for homeownership," said NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde, a home builder and developer from Torrington, Conn. "Housing affordability remains a challenge across the country, but conditions have improved in early 2019, as illustrated by the recent uptick in builder confidence."
"Despite a period of weakness in the fall, new home sales ended the year with a small gain," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "While the December sales pace improved on a monthly basis, the current rate of sales remains off the post-Great Recession trend due to housing affordability concerns made worse by the rise in mortgage interest rates at the end of the year. We expect lower mortgage rates in the early months of 2019 will lead to additional new home demand."
A new home sale occurs when a sales contract is signed or a deposit is accepted. The home can be in any stage of construction: not yet started, under construction or completed. In addition to adjusting for seasonal effects, the December reading of 621,000 units is the number of homes that would sell if this pace continued for the next 12 months.
The inventory of new homes for sale continued to rise in December to 344,000 homes available for sale. A year prior, new single-family home inventory stood at 294,000. The median sales price increased in December to $318,600, although it is lower than a year ago when the median sales price was $343,300. This is primarily due to the rising use of price incentives and a slow change toward additional entry-level inventory.
Regionally, on a total year basis for 2018, new home sales declined 16% in the Northeast and 1% in the West. Sales rose 4% in the South and 6% in the Midwest.