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Thursday, January 31, 2019

A few Comments on November New Home Sales

by Calculated Risk on 1/31/2019 11:45:00 AM

First, this report was for November (it was almost ready to release when the government shutdown began in December). The December report will probably be released soon, but no release date has been announced yet. Based on other data, I'd expect sales to be weak in December, but talking to builders, I expect a rebound in January.

New home sales for November were reported at 657,000 on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis (SAAR). This was well above the consensus forecast, and the three previous months were revised up.

Sales in November were down 7.2% year-over-year compared to November 2017.

On Inventory: Months of inventory is now at the top of the normal range, however the number of units completed and under construction is still somewhat low.   Inventory will be something to watch very closely.

Earlier: New Home Sales increased to 657,000 Annual Rate in November.

New Home Sales 2017 2018Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows new home sales for 2017 and 2018 by month (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate).

Sales are only up 2.7% through November compared to the same period in 2017.

The comparison for November was difficult (sales in November 2017 were very strong).  And the comparison in December will also be somewhat difficult.  Overall sales might finish the year down from 2017, but it should be close.

This is below my forecast for 2018 for an increase of about 6% over 2017. As I noted early this year, there were downside risks to that forecast, primarily higher mortgage rates, but also higher costs (labor and material), the impact of the new tax law, and other possible policy errors.

And here is another update to the "distressing gap" graph that I first started posting a number of years ago to show the emerging gap caused by distressed sales.  Now I'm looking for the gap to close over the next several years.

Distressing GapThe "distressing gap" graph shows existing home sales (left axis) through December and new home sales (right axis) through November 2018. This graph starts in 1994, but the relationship had been fairly steady back to the '60s.

Following the housing bubble and bust, the "distressing gap" appeared mostly because of distressed sales.   The gap has persisted even though distressed sales are down significantly, since new home builders focused on more expensive homes.

I still expect this gap to slowly close.   However, this assumes that the builders will offer some smaller, less expensive homes. If not, then the gap will persist.

Note: Existing home sales are counted when transactions are closed, and new home sales are counted when contracts are signed. So the timing of sales is different.