New Home Sales Fall in December, 2009
The U. S. Census Bureau announced on January 27, 2010 that sales of new one-family homes dropped another 7.6% in December 2009 from the previous month to 342,000 units. As usual, results were mixed regionally, with the Northeast up +42.9%, the West up +5.2%, the South down -7.3%, and the Midwest down -41.1%.
The inventory of homes for sale expressed in months of supply rose to an 8.1 month supply after rising the previous month to a 7.6 month supply. Paradoxically, the actual number of homes for sale fell by another 4,000 homes from 235,000 homes in November to 231,000 homes in December, which, incidentally is the lowest number of homes for sale since 1971. That was 39 years ago!
However, the inventory of homes is traditionally expressed in the number of months of supply, in which the number of homes available for sale divided by 1/12th of the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of sales for the most recent month. This supply figure was at 11.2 months a year ago and peaked at 12.4 months in January 2009. Many real estate professionals consider 6-to-7 months of supply a “Normal” market.
So the inventory number was fair, but not as good as previous months.
The drop in sales is not surprising in that the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit was originally to expire on November 30, 2009, and we anticipated that buyers would have run out of time to buy a home and still close by the end of November.
This theory would suggest that you would see sharply lower sales of lower-priced homes as first-time home buyers dropped out of the market because of the end of the original home buyer tax credit; whereas, move-up buyers would be unaffected.
However, similar to the November figures, this is not what seems to have happened. Sales fell 7.6%, and, yes, the percentage share of sales to buyers of homes under $200,000, the typical first-time home buyer price range, fell from the November level of 47% of total sales to 43% in December.
The share of sales in the first move-up price range, $200,000 to $300,000, also lost share, falling 6 percentage points from 30% in November to 24% in December.
But the share of sales of homes above $300,000 gained the 11 points, rising from 23% in October to a 34% share in December.
So it appears that new home sales fell most strongly in the middle price and middle price ranges in December, with lower-priced homes also falling in total but with a smaller drop in share of total sales. And higher-priced homes above $300,000 not only increased in market share, but they also increased by +16.7% in actual unit sales from 6,000 homes in November to 7,000 homes in December.
Even though the Tax Credit was extended and signed by President Obama on November 6, 2009, it should take several months before the next batch of home buyers can get themselves geared up to buy a home.
So we would have expected new home sales to fall in November,and December before rising again in January leading up to the next Tax Credit Cut Off on April, 30, 2010.
Let’s see what next month’s report brings.
See the full report: http://www.census.gov/const/newressales.pdf