New Home Market Falters On March 24, the Commerce Department reported February's new home sales dropped by 10.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 1.08 million homes. The announcement marked the second consecutive monthly decrease and the largest one-month drop since April 1997.

Coupled with declining home prices—the median price for new homes sold in February fell 1.6 percent from a month prior to $230,400—the announcement darkened many an industry outlook. The sales slowdown jacked up the inventory of unsold homes at the end of February to a record of 548,000 homes, suggesting additional downward pricing pressure will follow.

However, all was not gloom and doom, as the sales of previously owned home rose by 5.2 percent during the month, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Westbrooke Name Change Standard Pacific is going the way of KB Home and Toll Brothers and pushing for some of its sub-brands in competitive markets to use the corporate namesake for better brand leverage. South Florida-based Westbrooke Homes, which was acquired by Standard Pacific in April 2002, will now operate under the Standard Pacific name.

Top Places to Live Relocate-America, a Web site that helps consumers find new communities to which to move, released its annual list of “America's Top 100 Places to Live.” Top communities are selected from a pool of nominations, which are reviewed and ranked based on additional education, crime, employment, and housing data. The top 10 communities for 2006 were:

StanPac Supports Central Valley The Central Valley division of Standard Pacific donated $10,000 to the Great Valley Center of Modesto, Calif., a nonprofit dedicated to maintaining the viability of the area. The contribution will support the land use, housing, and agricultural efforts of the center in its participation with the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley.

Centex Cuts CHEC Late last month, Centex Corp. announced that it will sell its sub-prime home equity mortgage business, Centex Home Equity Company (CHEC), to an affiliate of global alternative investment and asset management firm Fortress Investment Group. The transaction will boost Centex's net after-tax available cash by roughly $575 million, allowing for more investment in its home building operations and affecting additional share repurchases.

The deal, which is expected to close by the end of August, marks a continued focus on growing home building operations. Once the deal is completed, home building operations will account for more than 95 percent of the company's future operating earnings.

Fastest-Growing Counties For the second straight year, Florida's Flagler County, spanning the Atlantic Coast from Daytona Beach to Jacksonville, was the nation's fastest-growing county, with a 10.7 percent population gain. All but one of the ten fastest-growing counties are located in either the South or the West, with Lyon County, Nev., being the exception.


Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.