The Commerce Department on April 24 reported that sales of new one-family houses in March 2008 fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 526,000, an 8.5% drop from February, 36.6% below the same month last year and the worst sales rate since October, 1991, when the pace fell to 509,000.

More ominously for the housing market, the data, released jointly by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, put inventory levels of unsold new single-family homes at historic highs, with an 11-month supply. That level has been reached only twice since the government began tracking new home sales in 1963: It hit 11.3 months in September, 1981 and 11.6 months in April, 1980.

Regionally, on a month-to-month basis, sales were off 19.4% in the Northeast, 12.5% in the Midwest, 4.6% in the South and 12.9% in the West.Compared to March 2007, sales were down 64.6% in the Northeast, 50.0% in the Midwest, 25.9% in the South and 39.3% in the West.

The median months on the market for new single family homes increased to 7.5 in March from 7.1 in February and 5.5 in March, 2007.

The median sales price of new houses sold in March 2008 was down 6.7% from February to $227,600, a drop of 13.3% from March 2008. The average sales price was down to 3.5% from February to $292,200, a decline of 11.3% from last March.