Just Listed brings you the latest news and information from the Twin Cities-area commercial and residential real estate market and beyond from veteran reporters Jim Buchta and Kristen Leigh Painter.

Expert insights into the steep decline in new home sales

Posted by: Jim Buchta under Buying Updated: July 24, 2014 - 11:58 AM

After a record downward revision in May, new home sales across the country last month posted a surprisingly large 8.1 percent decline last month, causing considerable angst about the health of the recovery. Here's a roundup of perspectives about the latest reports.

Wells Fargo Securities: Home sales were expected to fall in June, but that was after an unusually-large gain was originally posted in May. More than half of May’s gain was revised away and the decline in June erased the remainder, pushing the headline number to a low for the second quarter. Judging from the mortgage applications data, home demand remains weak; however, builder sentiment and existing home sales are improving again.

Brad Hunter, Chief Economist at Metrostudy: "We are back to a situation where home shoppers are shopping but a relatively small proportion of them are actually buying. This is explained in some cases by a long lead time (people taking longer to make a decision), and in other cases by a complete reluctance to buy.....after months of strong sales, more than offsetting the declines in February and March, new home sales activity has slowed dramatically in June. Temporary activity thanks to improved weather and pent-up demand appears to have been quickly satisfied. Going forward, new demand will be dependent on the consumers' ability to afford a new home. However, with house price appreciation outpacing income growth, many potential home-buyers are already being priced out of the market

Quicken Loans Vice President Bill Banfield: “The volatility in the new home sales data is leaving more questions than answers especially when considered with the recent increase in existing home sales. With interest rates generally improving this year, the volatility in recent sales may be driven more by availability of inventory and employment.”

JEF Economics: Before getting into the detail, it is important to view this data in context. New home sales, over time, tend to be volatile. Single-family new home sales make up a small percentage of overall home sales. So, a small sample is scaled up through seasonal adjustment and then multiplied by 12 to generate an annualized rate. Very small fluctuations in the monthly raw data can generate very large swings in the headline data. This was the case with the May revision. It was originally reported that there were 49,000 homes sold in May on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. This was revised down to 42,000 in today’s release. So a 7K decline in the absolute number of homes sold resulted in a 62K decline in the seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate. So, this month’s data and the revision to last month are discouraging. We had been expecting that the housing sector would regain the momentum lost over the winter and that both new and existing home sales and the pace of home construction would accelerate through the spring and summer. Existing home sales are recovering nicely, but housing starts and new home sales remain week.

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