Sales of new single-family home rose 2.6% in March over February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 858,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The sales numbers, released this morning (April 25) were 23.5% below the 1,121,000 posted in March 2006. The median sales price was $254,000, up 0.9% from February, and the average sales price was $330,900, up 1.5% from February.

There were 545,000 new homes for sale at the end of March on a seasonally adjusted basis. The months-supply of new homes for sale fell 3.7% to 7.8 from 8.1 in February.

Regionally, sales were up 50.0% to 72,000 in the Northeast; 9.8% to 134,000 in the Midwest; down 2.7% to 436,000 in the South, and down 0.9% to 216,000 in the West. SEE DATA HERE

Patrick Newport, U.S. Economist for Global Insight in Boston, said the numbers "were a little bit disappointing. The consensus was 890,000, and it came in at 858,000. Also, they were up a lot because of the Northeast, and that number is not believable."

Newport explained that problems with the research, probably a small sample size, left a 76% margin for error in the numbers for the Northeast. He also said he was disappointed with the increase in average home prices over March 2006, which, according to the Census/HUD data, was 10.8%. "It's hard to tell with that number, because it doesn't include discounts." He said that because of this, that number might not be believable either.

The bottom line, according to Newport, is that "inventory is still fairly high, and it won't come down until prices moderate."