New Home Sales Fall to 5-Month Low

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New Home Prices
Tony Dejak/AP
By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON -- Sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell more than expected and hit a five-month low in February, pointing to continued weakness in the housing market.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that sales fell 3.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 440,000 units, the lowest level since last September.

January's sales were revised down to a 455,000-unit pace from the previously reported 468,000-unit rate.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales at a 445,000-unit pace in February. New home sales fell 1.1 percent compared with February 2013.

Last month's drop brought new home sales in line with other data such as home resales and building activity that have offered a downbeat picture of the housing market.

Some of the housing slowdown has been blamed on an unusually cold and snowy winter. But the sector, the main channel through which the Federal Reserve has sought to stimulate the economy via monthly bond purchases, lost momentum last summer following a run-up in mortgage rates.

A dwindling supply of homes for sale and soaring house prices have also weighed. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%But a recovery is expected later this year as household formation accelerates after abruptly slowing in 2013.

Last month, sales in the Northeast tumbled 32.4 percent, the biggest decline since October 2012, indicating severe weather continued to hurt activity. Sales fell 1.5 percent in the South, which experienced harsh weather. They surged 36.7 percent in the Midwest, but fell 15.9 percent in the West.

Though the supply of new houses on the market hit the highest level since December 2010, inventory remains low. At February's sales pace it would take 5.2 months to clear the supply of houses on the market.

That was up from 5 months in January and the most since last September. A supply of 6 months is normally considered a healthy balance between supply and demand.

The median price of a new home last month fell 1.2 percent from February 2013. It was the biggest drop since June 2012.

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House Rich: Neighborhoods With the Biggest Price Jumps
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New Home Sales Fall to 5-Month Low

Year-over-year gain: 21.5%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $224,450

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $272,750

Residents enjoy hundreds of nearby hiking trails, as well as indoor culture at the Fine Arts Center and the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.

Year-over-year gain: 22%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $318,375

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $388,500

This neighborhood, bounded by the Schuylkill River and 20th Street, and by South Street and Christian Street, was viewed as a slum in the 1970s, when Philadelphia's Redevelopment Authority took over abandoned properties.

Year-over-year gain: 24.2%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $516,450

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $641,500

Magnolia covers 4 square miles, making it the second-largest Seattle neighborhood by area. It features a lighthouse built in 1881 and is home to Seattle's largest park, at 534 acres.

Year-over-year gain: 32.1%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $210,446

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $277,898

Paradise Valley, in the heart of the Scottsdale-Phoenix area, gets an average 294 days of sunshine a year -- hence, the more than 200 golf courses.

Year-over-year gain: 32.2%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $344,750

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $455,835

The Washington Post listed Sunset Hills among "the shortest commute" category of Virginia neighborhoods, with an average commute time of just over 21 minutes. And Dulles International Airport is about six miles away.

Year-over-year gain: 44.5%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $247,735

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $357,900

This once-seedy area has become hot in recent years. It's packed with art galleries and chic retail shops, as well as new upscale bars and restaurants next to venerable family-owned cafeterias.

Year-over-year gain: 46.9%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $284,750

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $418,250

Brighton, once the center of New England's cattle trade, is in the northwest corner of Boston, on the Charles River. The Brighton Branch Library is Boston's first renovated LEED Green Building. The Brighton Police station is shown here.

Year-over-year gain: 47.5%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $223,175

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $329,100

South Loop joins a number of other once-blighted neighborhoods on this list that have been redeveloped and are now hot. The site of former rail yards, it was known for many years more for its vices (as in brothels, burlesques) than its residential virtues.

Year-over-year gain: 48.7%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $241,000

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $358,450

Also: Fairgrounds, San Jose (41.4%); La Jolla, San Diego (40%); Woodland Hills, Los Angeles (37.5%); Southwest Anaheim, Anaheim (35.2%); Berryessa, San Jose (34.4%).

Newhall, the southernmost and oldest district of Santa Clarita, was the first permanent Anglo settlement in the valley. Ranches-turned-film studios dot the area, including the Melody Ranch, which was once owned by Gene Autry. The ranch hosts the annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival.

Year-over-year gain: 48.8%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $504,250

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $750,275

This is the most affluent neighborhood in Charlotte; the median income is $79,737, according to Zillow. That compares with a median of $46,975 for Charlotte. A high point of the area is the Duke Mansion, built in 1915 by tobacco magnate James Buchanan Duke.

Year-over-year gain: 57.4%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $167,450

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $263,615

People who live here, according to classifications Zillow uses to characterize residents, are likely to be: Corporate Climbers, Multi-lingual Urbanites or in a category called "Bright Lights, Big City," which Zillow uses to describe "singles ranging in age from the early 20s to mid-40s who have moved to an urban setting."

Year-over-year gain: 97.3%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $668,250

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $1,318,301

New York City’s 92-acre planned community includes areas built on more than 3 million cubic yards of soil and rock, some of which was excavated during the construction of the World Trade Center.

Bloomberg ranked neighborhoods in U.S. cities based on the year-over-year increase in median home sale prices from January 2013 to January 2014. Percentage increases were based on Zillow calculations of median sale prices of all home types and calculated only for neighborhoods with at least 10 sales per month. Only neighborhoods with median home sale prices of at least $250,000 in January 2014 were included. Data were rounded.

Related real estate rankings:

Most Expensive Home Prices: U.S. Neighborhoods

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