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New Home Sales Fall 15.4 Percent in March on Coronavirus Concerns

Sales of newly built, single-family homes fell 15.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 627,000 units in March, coming off a downward revision in February, according to newly released data by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. The March rate is 9.5 percent lower than the March 2019 pace.

"Despite the sharp decline in new home sales this month, the first quarter of 2020 was actually 6.7 percent higher than the same period last year, reflecting a strong pace prior to the virus outbreak," says Dean Mon, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. "While we expect to see some further impacts to the industry, we remain confident that housing will be a sector that will help lead the economic recovery."

"The drop in March sales reflects buyer concerns over the virus, and was primarily concentrated in the hardest hit regions of the Northeast and West," says Robert Dietz, NAHB chief economist. "The weakening in sales is in line with our builder surveys that showed dramatic declines in buyer traffic and builder confidence in April. We expect further slowing of the pace of new home sales in April, as jobless claims continue to rise, before stabilizing later this year."

Inventory rose to a 6.4 months' supply, with 333,000 new single-family homes for sale, 1.2 percent lower than March 2019. Of that total, just 76,000 are completed, ready to occupy. The median sales price was $321,400. The median price of a new home sale a year earlier was $310,600.