Home sales decline blemishes best year since 2009

2012 Sales

For all of 2012, new-home sales increased 19.9 percent, the biggest jump since 1983 and the first gain since 2005.

At Lennar, the largest U.S. homebuilder by market value, revenue jumped 42 percent in the three months ended Nov. 30 from a year earlier.

“2012 was a turnaround year that confirmed what we had been seeing and communicating for several quarters, and that is that we are in fact in the early stages of the housing recovery,” Stuart Miller, chief executive officer at Miami- based Lennar, said on a Jan. 15 earnings call. “The recovery began in micro markets across the country, and it’s continued to spread.”

Los Angeles-based builder KB Home said this week that orders for new dwellings climbed 54 percent in the first seven weeks of its fiscal first quarter.

Today’s Commerce Department data showed the median price of a new home in the U.S. increased 13.9 percent last month from a year ago, climbing to $248,900.

By Region

In December, purchases decreased in three of four regions, led by a 29.4 percent slump in the Northeast. Sales also fell 11.1 percent in the West and 8.4 percent in the South. They rose 21.3 percent in the Midwest.

The housing data for last year show the market gained vitality in 2012. Construction of new properties rose last month to the fastest pace since June 2008, according to Jan. 17 Commerce Department data. The December figure capped the best year for homebuilding since 2008.

Today’s report showed the supply of new homes at the current sales rate climbed to 4.9 months from 4.5 months in November. There were 151,000 new houses on the market at the end of December, up from 149,000 the prior month.

Some 1.82 million previously-owned homes were on the market in December, the fewest since January 2001, according to National Association of Realtors data earlier this week.

The building environment has brightened the mood among construction companies. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index held at 47 in January, the highest since 2006. Nonetheless, readings below 50 mean more respondents said conditions were poor.

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