New Home Sales Plunge 14.5 Percent

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The sales of new homes in the U.S. dived by 14.5 percent in March, the latest indication of a pause in the recovery of the housing market — an important leading economic indicator for pool and spa sales.

Sales of new single-family homes fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000, the Commerce Department said yesterday. Overall, except for a brief downturn last summer, this rate had been holding steady at roughly 450,000 units since early 2013. By comparison, these numbers are still quite small compared to the 1.4 million units the construction industry cranked out the year before the recession.

Some analysts blamed a harsh winter which shut construction sites and dampened buyer enthusiasm, and this clearly had a role, but a drop this big suggests other factors may be involved, including the still-sluggish economy and tight lending standards which remain in place in some parts of the country.

Industry watchers are hopeful that warmer weather will spur home building to at least its former level, and reveal March’s poor performance to be an anomaly.

Commerce also said in yesterday’s report that the median price of a new home reached $290,000, its highest level ever and a gain of 11.2% from February, reflecting a tilting of the market toward better-heeled shoppers.

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