New Home Sales Rose in September, Prices Declined

New single-family home sales rose in September at their fastest rate in five months, but housing prices continued to decline. According to a Commerce Department report released today, sales increased 5.7% to a seasonally adjusted 313,000-unit annual rate. Sales in the South clocked their fastest pace since April 2010, offsetting a decline in the Midwest.

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The overall percent change in sales last month was the largest since March, while the sales pace was its fastest since April. The Commerce Department also revised August’s sales pace up to 296,000 units from a previously reported 295,000. However, in the twelve months through September, new home sales were still down 0.9%.

In hopes of giving the housing sector a boost, the government announced on Monday plans to expand its refinancing program to help so-called “underwater” homeowners — those who owe more than their houses are worth. The program is expected to help up to one million borrowers who have made payments on time but have been unable to refinance.

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The median sales price for a new home fell 3.1% in September to $204,400, its lowest since October 2010 and down 10.4% compared to September of last year. Last month, the supply of new homes on the market also fell to 6.2 months’ worth, the lowest since April 2010.