Feb 27, 2023 - Economy

New home sales defy mortgage gravity

Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

It's a tale of two housing markets. New home sales rose more than expected in January, climbing 7.2% from the month before, per government data out Friday.

Driving the news: In the much bigger existing home market, sales fell for the 12th straight month in January, decreasing 0.7% to 4 million from the month before, according to the National Association of Realtors, also out last week.

Why it matters: High rates are crushing housing sales, generally, but deals for new homes are doing a bit better, thanks to price cuts and the raft of incentives on offer by homebuilders, writes Sam Hall, a property economist at Capital Economics, in a note.

  • Builders have had big success with mortgage buydowns, offering rates as low as 4.5% to buyers, as Axios' James Briggs reported last week.
  • The median sale price for a new home declined to $427,500 in January, from $465,600 in December.

But, but, but: Overall, sales are still way below their frothy peaks. New home data can also be volatile and is subject to revisions.

  • Oh, and also, mortgage rates are going back up — the average hit 6.5% last week — and that could weigh heavily on the whole scene.
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