Sales of new, single-family homes rose 11.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Monday. Despite the increase, however, sales remaned 21.9% below the tax-credit fueled surge of March, 2010. February's estimates were revised upward from an annual sales rate of 250,000 to a rate of 270,000.
Builder stocks were mixed shortly after the data release amid a down overall market. Wall Street was expecting a rate of 280,000.
The median new-home price was up as well to $213,800 from $207,700 in February but down from $224,800 in March of last year. The average price slipped to $246,800 from $256,600 in February and $262,900 last March.
Inventory of new homes for sale fell back slighly to 183,000 from 185,000 in February, a 7.3-month supply at the current sales rate, down 11% from February but up marginally from 7.1 months at the same time last year.Median months-for-sale rose slightly to 8.5 from 8.1 in February but was down considerably from 14.4 in March, 2010.
Regionally, three of four regions were up, with the usually volatile Northeast posting a 66.7% gain from February to a rate of 30,000 homes, 9.1% below the pace of March 2010. The West was up sharply as well, with a 25.9% gain to a pace of 73,000 from 58,000 in February, still 20.7% below the rate of last March. The Midwest rose 12.9% to a rate of 35,000 from 31,000 the prior month, 34% off last year's pace. The South was down 0.6% to a pace of 162,000, down from 163,000 in February and down 21.4% from the March, 2010 pace of 206,000.
Not seasonally adjusted, an estimated 29,000 homes were sold in March, 3,000 each in the Northeast and Midwest, 16,000 in the South and 7,000 in the West.
The bulk of the sales activity took place in the under $300,000 segment, with 6,000 homes sold for under $150,000, 7,000 between $150,000 and $199,999 and 8,000 between $200,000 and $299,999. An estimated 5,000 homes were sold in the $300,000 to $399,999 category, and 1,000 each were sold in the $400,000 to $499,999 and $500,000 to $749,000. The above $750,000 category posted fewer than 500 sales.