US new-home sales jump to highest in 4½ years
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. new-home sales jumped in January from the previous month to the highest level since July 2008, a sign that the housing recovery is accelerating.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new-home sales rose nearly 16 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 437,000. The percentage increase was the largest in nearly 20 years. And December's sales were revised higher to 378,000 from 369,000.
Steady job creation and near-record-low mortgage rates are spurring more Americans to buy houses. Sales of previously occupied homes rose to the highest level in five years last year.
At the same time, the number of previously occupied homes for sale is at a 13-year low. That shortage creates more demand for new homes. Builders began construction on the most houses and apartments in four years last year.
The supply of new homes for sale was unchanged last month at 150,000. That's barely above August's total of 143,000 — the smallest supply of new homes on records dating back to 1963.
At the current sales pace, it would take just 4.1 months to exhaust the number of new homes for sale, the lowest in eight years. Low inventories should encourage more construction.
Though new homes represent less than 20 percent of the housing sales market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to data from the National Association of Homebuilders.