New single-family home sales soared in April, rising 14.8% from March and 47.8% above the same month last year, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. The gains easily beat the estimates of economists, who were looking for a gain of 3.4%.

Boosted by the expiring home-buyer tax credit, sales of new one-family houses in April 2010 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 504,000, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Inventory of unsold new homes fell 7% to 211,000, seasonally adjusted. Months supply was down 19.4% to 5 at the April sales rate.

The median price, however, took a substantial hit, falling 9.6% from March to $198,400, the lowest median price reported since the housing downturn began. The average price also fell, by 4.8%, to $249,500.

The price declines were due in part to a regional skew in sales toward the Midwest and South, where homes are less expensive. According to the Commerce Department report, the number of homes sold in the $150,000 to $199,999 price range rose from 10,000 in March to 15,000 in April, and sales of homes priced under $150,000 increased to 10,000 in April from 7,000 in March.Sales in the former category normally track in the 8,000 to 9,000 range; in the latter, they routinely total between 5,000 and 7,000.

Median months for sale also fell moderately, from 14.5 months in March to14.3 in April, still near its downturn peak. In comparison, the typical new home was on the market for 6.7 months in January, 2008.

Regionally, the Northeast was flat at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 39,000 but 85.7% ahead of April 2009; the Midwest was up 31.6% to 75,000, 87.5% ahead of a year earlier; the South was up 10.8% to 278,000, 38.3% ahead of last April; and the West was up 21.7% to 112,000, a 41.8% increase from April, 2009. In terms of actual homes sold, the Northeast posted 4,000 sales; the Midwest 7,000; the South 26,000; and the West 11,000.