Sales of new single-family houses in June fell 1% from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 312,000, 23.2% behind the pace of June, 2010, according to estimates released jointly Tuesday by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The May rate was revised downward from a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 319,000 to 315,000. Analysts were expecting a rate of 320,000.
The median sales price of new homes sold in June rose 5.8% to $235,200; the average sales price was up marginally, from $264,300 in May to $269,000 in June. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of June was 164,000, a supply of 6.3 months, down from 6.4 months in May. The inventory estimate represented an all-time low.
The results were mixed by region. The usually volatile Northeast dropped 15.8% to a pace of 16,000, 51.5% behind June of last year. A small sample size in the region makes the data particularly vulnerable to wide swings and is not always an accurate barometer of actual sales there.
New-home sales in the Midwest jumped 9.5% to an annual pace of 46,000, 2.2% ahead of June, 2010. The South rose 3.4% to a pace of 181,000, 4.6% ahead of last years June pace. The West declined 12.7% to a rate of 69,000, 23.2% above last June.
Not seasonally adjusted, a total of 29,000 homes were sold during the month, flat with May. The median months for sale rose to 9.9 from 9.2. The rise in prices was driven by an increase in sales in the move-up segment priced from $200,000 to $299,999 and a small decline in sales in at the entry-level price of under $150,000.
Adam Rudiger, home-building analyst at Wells Fargo, had a mixed take on the data. In a research note, he wrote, "Cumulatively, through June, actual new home sales of 159,000 are 12.6% below year-ago levels. Extrapolating average ten-year seasonality to YTD sales suggests 2011 new home sales total of 294,000, which would represent a 9% yr/yr decline and establish a new annual record low for new home sales. Positively, for large public builders, inventory and completed spec homes both sit at their lowest levels ever, which may help minimize further gross margin compression."
Michael Rehaut at J.P. Morgan saw the data as more evidence of a modestly positive trend. "We believe housing demand overall continues to demonstrate stable to slightly improving trend, as we note June total housing starts rose 15% and June existing home sales fell 1%," he wrote in a note to investors Tuesday. "Moreover, we believe supply continues to remain manageable, as existing homes for sale are 18% below peak levels and foreclosures continue to liquidate at a moderate pace."