Few Buyers For New Homes

Maybe it's the unusually cold weather, or maybe potential buyers are waiting till springtime, but few people bought new houses last December.

Purchases of new single-family homes fell to an annualized rate of 342,000 in December, according to the Commerce Dept. That's down from 355,000 the month before and it's close to the low point for home sales last January of 329,000. And of course, it's just a third of the million or more new homes that sold every year from 2003 through 2006.

Housing watchers were expecting much better. Survey estimates ranged from 340,000 to 399,000. Bloomberg News put its bet at 366,000.

So what happened? People shopping for homes may figure it makes sense to wait a few months to buy.