By Wendy Leibowitz. For the third time this year, new single-family home sales surpassed the one million-unit mark in April, rising 1.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.03 million units, according to the Commerce Department.

"This sales performance [along with strong existing home sales] provides solid evidence of the confidence that buyers continue to have in homes as investments," said Kent Conine, president of the NAHB and a home and apartment builder from Dallas. "The news also bodes well for the remainder of the spring home-buying season and beyond because there has been another downshift in mortgage interest rates and a further boost in consumer confidence since April."

According to Commerce Department figures, new-home sales rose in three out of four regions in April, with gains of 13.4 percent, 0.6 percent, and 4.3 percent recorded in the Midwest, South, and West, respectively. In the Northeast, where shifting weather patterns have caused wild fluctuations for several months, sales fell nearly 18 percent.

Noted NAHB chief economist David Seiders: "With inventories of unsold new homes remaining at quite a healthy level, with impressive house-price performance on a year-over-year basis, and with our latest surveys indicating significant optimism among home builders, we're clearly headed for a great second quarter. When you add in the terrific interest rate picture, all systems are 'go' for home sales -- we are definitely on track to equal or surpass the record home sales of 2002."