Sales of newly built homes in US dropped in November

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Despite slowing sales and rising mortgage rates, the median price of newly built homes sold in November rose nearly 19% from November 2020

Sales of newly built homes in November came in well below analysts’ expectations, down 14% from a year ago. And October’s sales numbers were revised to the lowest level since the start of the pandemic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau count.

Despite slowing sales and rising mortgage rates, the median price of newly built homes sold in November rose nearly 19% from November 2020.

This came even as the supply of new homes rose. That rising inventory should push prices down, observers say. However, with inventory in existing homes historically low, prices in newly built homes are continuing to jump.

A hefty correction appears to be due, but the rapid increases in existing home prices — inventory in that market is only one-third the level in the new home market, relative to sales — is putting extra upward pressure on new home prices, wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics in a note to investors.

Prices for existing homes sold in November were up just over 13% year over year, a slight increase from the annual gain in October, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The median is also skewing higher because of the mix of homes selling, which are in large part pricier homes. Even repeat sale price indexes, like S&P Case-Shiller show prices up close to 20% from a year ago.

Homebuilders have also been slowing sales due to supply chain issues, as they don’t want to sell a home that they can’t deliver on time.

While the Realtors are expecting lower existing home sales next year due to rising mortgage rates and continued high prices, builders are more bullish.

Builder sentiment rose to the highest level of the year in December (tied with February). It is possible that the sales numbers will be revised, as the Census survey has a wide margin of error.

We would not be at all surprised to see both the October and November numbers being revised up substantially. In the meantime, the rising trend in mortgage applications probably is a better guide to the underlying state of demand in the housing market, added Shepherdson.

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