New Home Sales Up 4.3% In January

This morning's release of the January New Home Sales from the Census Bureau came in at 923K, up 4.3% month-over-month from a revised 885K in December. The forecast was for 855K. The median home price is now at $346K.

Here is the opening from the report:

New Home Sales
Sales of new single-family houses in January 2021 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 923,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 4.3 percent (±18.1 percent)* above the revised December rate of 885,000 and is 19.3 percent (±19.5 percent)* above the January 2020 estimate of 774,000.

Sales Price
The median sales price of new houses sold in January 2021 was $346,400. The average sales price was $408,800. [Full Report]

For a longer-term perspective, here is a snapshot of the data series, which is produced in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The data since January 1963 is available in the St. Louis Fed's FRED repository here. We've included a six-month moving average to highlight the trend in this highly volatile series.

New Home Sales

Over this time frame, we see the steady rise in new home sales following the 1990 recession and the acceleration in sales during the real estate bubble that peaked in 2005.

The Population-Adjusted Reality

Now let's examine the data with a simple population adjustment. The Census Bureau's mid-month population estimates show a 76% increase in the US population since 1963. Here is a chart of new home sales as a percent of the population.

Population Adjusted

New single-family home sales are 42.5% above the 1963 start of this data series. The population-adjusted version is 19.0% below the first 1963 sales and at a level similar to the lows we saw during the double-dip recession in the early 1980s, a time when 30-year mortgage rates peaked at 18.63%. Today's 30-year rate is 2.81%.

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