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New home sales rose again in December

An estimated 761,000 new homes were sold in 2021

After posting a 12.4% month-over-month increase in November, new home sales continued to rise in December, increasing 11.9% from the month prior to an annual rate of 811,00, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday.

Despite this increase, the sale of new homes is still 14% down compared to a year ago, when the estimated annual rate was 943,000.

Overall, an estimated 761,000 new homes were sold in 2021, which is 7.3% below the 2020 estimate of 822,000.

“Sales of new homes were disappointingly low in 2021,” Holden Lewis, a home and mortgage specialist at NerdWallet, said in a statement. “Builders couldn’t satisfy the fierce demand for homes because they couldn’t buy enough affordable building materials. Qualified workers are in short supply, too. Kinks in the supply chain will get straightened out eventually, and if builders can find enough laborers, home construction may surge in 2022.”

At the end of December, an estimated 403,000 new abodes were still for sale, which, at the current sales rate, represents a six-month supply. With the supply of existing homes for sale hitting record lows, this relatively high level of supply of new homes, in addition to the other issues plaguing the homebuilding industry being more temporary in nature, are giving experts reasons to be hopeful for new home sales in 2022.

“Last year’s shortage of construction materials and workers, on the other hand, is a temporary problem that the industry should be able to work through this year,” Zillow economist Kwame Donaldson said in a statement. “If so, new home sales will reverse 2021’s slide and end 2022 above where the year started.”

While the median home sales price for new homes dropped to $377,000 from $416,900 in November, affordability remains a problem.

“Rising new-home prices may be pricing out some buyers,” Odeta Kushi, the First American deputy chief economist, said in a statement. “In December 2021, only 22% of new-home sales were priced below $300,000, which is down 7 percentage points from December 2020.”

On a regional level, new residential home sales fell in three of the four major U.S. regions on a year-over-year basis. In the Northeast, Midwest, and South, they fell 34.1%, 23.3% and 17.5%, respectively, while in the West they rose 2.1%.