Thursday, September 25, 2008

August New Home Sales: Lowest August Since 1982

by Bill McBride on 9/25/2008 10:10:00 AM

According to the Census Bureau report, New Home Sales in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 460 thousand. Sales for July were revised up slightly to 520 thousand.

New Home Sales Monthly Not Seasonally Adjusted Click on graph for larger image in new window.

The first graph shows monthly new home sales (NSA - Not Seasonally Adjusted).

Notice the Red columns for 2008. This is the lowest sales for August since 1982. (NSA, 39 thousand new homes were sold in August 2008, 36 thousand were sold in August 1982).

As the graph indicates, sales in 2008 are substantially worse than the previous years.

New Home Sales and Recessions The second graph shows New Home Sales vs. recessions for the last 45 years. New Home sales have fallen off a cliff.

Sales of new one-family houses in August 2008 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 460,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 11.5 percent below the revised July rate of 520,000 and is 34.5 percent below the August 2007 estimate of 702,000.
And one more long term graph - this one for New Home Months of Supply.

New Home Months of Supply and Recessions "Months of supply" is at 10.9 months.

Note that this doesn't include cancellations, but that was true for the earlier periods too. Sales are falling quickly, but inventory is declining too, so the months of supply is slightly lower than the peak of 11.2 months in March 2008.

The all time high for Months of Supply was 11.6 months in April 1980.

And on inventory:

New Home Sales Inventory
The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of August was 408,000. This represents a supply of 10.9 months at the current sales rate.
Inventory numbers from the Census Bureau do not include cancellations and cancellations are falling, but are still near record levels. Note that new home inventory does not include many condos (especially high rise condos), and areas with significant condo construction will have much higher inventory levels.

As I noted last month, I now expect that 2008 will be the peak of the inventory cycle (in terms of months of supply) and could be the bottom of the sales cycle for new home sales. But the news is still grim for the home builders. Usually new home sales rebound fairly quickly following a bottom (see the 2nd graph above), but this time I expect a slow recovery because of the overhang of existing homes for sales (especially distressed properties). If the recession is more severe than I currently expect, new home sales might fall even further.

This is a very weak report, but as grim as the news is for new home sales, I remain more pessimistic about existing home sales, and existing home prices, than new home sales.