New home sales rise for second consecutive month
Sales of new single-family homes in August increased 1.5% from the prior month, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 740,000, according to a report from the U.S. Commerce Department released on Friday. That’s the second straight month of rising sales for homebuilders, though there’s good reason to think the height of the frenzy is behind us.
Sales of new homes were down 24.3% from a year prior, and the median sales price of new single-family homes in August 2021 reached $390,900, 20.1% higher than August 2020.
“The housing market over the summer of 2021 appears to have settled at a level lower than the surge in the second half of 2020 into early 2021,” Ben Ayers, a senior economist at Nationwide, said in a statement. “Still, new home sales remain high relative to levels since the housing market crash and show continued strong demand from buyers.”
The number of new houses for sale in August 2021 (378,000) represents a 6.1 month supply of new houses at the current sales rate, according to the report. This is a 74.3% increase over August 2020 levels, and reflects the 17.4% increase in housing starts compared to a year ago.
Industry experts feel that this is a reflection of the steadying confidence among homebuilders, which remains high, despite a recent decline.
“Builder sentiment remains strong and housing demand is being supported by ongoing low mortgage interest rates and a shortage of existing home inventory,” Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said in a statement
Despite rising housing starts and steadying confidence levels among builders, the industry still faces some challenges including continued material and labor shortages. Because of the labor and material issues, many homebuilders have delayed putting up the number of new homes up for sale.
“The solid improvement in August sales does not mean that builders are in the clear — building material supply chain issues and labor shortages are still very real challenges that buyers and builders alike are eager to see resolved,” Zillow economist Matthew Speakman said in a statement. “It’s critical that builders continue to find ways to get around these existing challenges and bring new homes to the market in higher numbers, giving even marginal relief to would-be buyers exasperated by intense competition and limited housing supply.”
Nearly 80% of homes sold in August were either under construction or yet to be built.
“This report continues to highlight the ongoing difficulties that homebuilders are facing as they attempt to work through their current construction backlog, due to a shortage of labor and elevated material costs and outright shortages,” added Mark Palim, deputy chief economist at Fannie Mae.
Regionally, on a year-to-date basis, new home sales fell 1.0% in the Northeast and 2.3% in the West, but rose 4.4% in the Midwest and 4.5% in the South.
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