John Burns Real Estate Consulting, Irvine, Calif., on Tuesday reported that, based on a nationwide survey of public and private home builders, it projects net new home sales for February to rise rise 26% from January but remain 9% below February last year.

The historical average rise from January to February is 12%.

"We told our clients that a 9% decline is actually better than it seems, because we are comparing year-over-year to sales which were boosted by the federal tax credit," said Burns Consulting CEO John Burns. "If we can get through the spring comping that close to last year, I would say we are seeing stability in the housing market."

Jody Kahn, the Burns vp who runs the survey, added, "Most regions remain down on a year-over-year basis, though The Northwest, Texas and the Southwest are outperforming the national average."

According to the survey, prices are flat in Texas and the Northeast and declining slowly everywhere else. Traffic numbers improved during February, but motivation and qualification problems remain. Starts increased in seven regions in February, led by the Southwest. Finished inventory decreased by 9% to 2.9 units on average, from 3.2 in January.

The survey was based on 225 market ratings provided by 197 builders with more than 1,600 communities.

The Commerce Department is scheduled to release its report on February new-home sales on Wednesday, March 23.