Sales of newly built, single-family homes declined 4.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 411,000 units in February from a strong pace of 431,000 units in the previous month, according to newly released figures from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Department. Despite the slight decline, this is the second highest monthly total since April 2010 when the federal home buyer tax credit expired.
"New-home sales have been running at a fairly steady pace the last few months, with February adjusting for the strong sales we saw in January," said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. "While the February pace is encouraging, housing's recovery is being significantly constrained by overly tight mortgage lending conditions, and policymaker discussions about changes to the mortgage interest deduction could cast a shadow on future housing demand."
"The February decline is a readjustment to the unusually high numbers that we saw in January, and we are still in line with our forecast for 2013," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "This is the kind of modest but steady growth we are expecting to see throughout the year as the economy and job market continue to improve, but constraints on borrower credit, higher building material prices and a limited supply of labor and buildable lots hold back a more robust recovery."
Regionally, new-home sales activity was mixed in February, with the Midwest posting a gain of 13.7 percent, while the Northeast, South and West showed declines of 13.3 percent, 9.7 percent and 2.1, respectively.
The inventory of new homes increased to 152,000 units in February, which is a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace. Although this is an increase over the previous month, it is still well below normal inventory trends.