Comments on August New Home Sales

Record 105 thousand homes have not been started

New Home Sales Increase to 740,000 Annual Rate in August

The Census Bureau reports New Home Sales in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 740 thousand.

The previous three months were revised up, combined.

Sales of new single‐family houses in August 2021 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 740,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 1.5 percent above the revised July rate of 729,000, but is 24.3 percent below the August 2020 estimate of 977,000.
emphasis added

The first graph shows New Home Sales vs. recessions since 1963. The dashed line is the current sales rate.

New home sales are now declining year-over-year since sales soared following the first few months of the pandemic.

The second graph shows New Home Months of Supply.

The months of supply increased in August to 6.1 months from 6.0 months in July.

The all time record high was 12.1 months of supply in January 2009. The all time record low was 3.5 months, most recently in October 2020.

This is above the normal range (about 4 to 6 months supply is normal).

"The seasonally‐adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of August was 378,000. This represents a supply of 6.1 months at the current sales rate."

On inventory, according to the Census Bureau:

"A house is considered for sale when a permit to build has been issued in permit-issuing places or work has begun on the footings or foundation in nonpermit areas and a sales contract has not been signed nor a deposit accepted."

Starting in 1973 the Census Bureau broke this down into three categories: Not Started, Under Construction, and Completed.

The third graph shows the three categories of inventory starting in 1973.

The inventory of completed homes for sale - at 36 thousand - is just above the record low of 33 thousand. This is about half the normal level of completed homes for sale. However, the combined total of completed and under construction is close to normal.

The fourth graph shows sales NSA (monthly sales, not seasonally adjusted annual rate).

In August 2021 (red column), 62 thousand new homes were sold (NSA). Last year, 81 thousand homes were sold in August. The all time high for August was 110 thousand in 2005, and the all time low for August was 23 thousand in 2010.

Although the new home sales rate for August, at 740,000 on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis (SAAR), was somewhat above consensus expectations of 714,000 SAAR for August, sales were still down 24.3% year-over-year - since sales increased sharply following the early months of the pandemic.  The new home sales rate is now close to the pre-pandemic level of around 740 thousand (the three months previous to pandemic). 

Sales, year to date in 2021, are only 2.4% ahead of sales in 20202, and new home sales in 2021 will be below sales in 2020 - since sales in 2020 finished strong.

This graph shows new home sales for 2020 and 2021 by month (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate).

The year-over-year comparisons were easy in the first half of 2021 - especially in March and April. However, sales will likely be down year-over-year for the remainder of 2021 - since the selling season was delayed in 2020.

Record 105 Thousand Homes Have Not Been Started

The next graph shows the months of supply by stage of construction.

The inventory of completed homes for sale was at 36 thousand in August, just above the record low of 33 thousand in March, April, May and July 2021. That is about 0.6 months of completed supply (just above the record low).

The inventory of new homes under construction is at 3.8 months - slightly above the normal level.

However, a record 105 thousand homes have not been started - about 1.8 months of supply - about double the normal level.

Prices Are Up Sharply Year-over-year

And on prices, from the Census Bureau: "The median sales price of new houses sold in August 2021 was $390,900.  The average sales price was $443,200."

The following graph shows the median and average new home prices.

During the housing bust, the builders had to build smaller and less expensive homes to compete with all the distressed sales.  When housing started to recovery - with limited finished lots in recovering areas - builders moved to higher price points to maximize profits.

Then the average and median house prices mostly moved sideways since 2017 due to home builders offering more lower priced homes.  Prices picked up during the pandemic, and really picked up recently.

The average price in August 2021 was $443,200 up 15% year-over-year.  The median price was a record $390,900, up 20% year-over-year.  

The last graph shows the percent of new homes sold by price.

Very few new homes sold were under $200K in August 2021 (about 1.7% of all homes).  This is down from 56% in 2002.  In general, the under $200K bracket is going away.   

The $400K and greater than $500K+ brackets increased significantly over the last decade.  

Half of new homes (about 47% in August) in the U.S., are in the $200K to $400K range.  The fastest growing price segments over the last 2 years have been the $400K plus ranges (over half of new homes are now over $400K - a record percentage).


Although new home sales will be down year-over-year in 2021, a key reason is builders have limited sales, and delayed starts, due to supply chain constraints and uncertain costs. This is also why there are a record number of homes “not started”. Some costs have fallen recently, and the supply chain issues should resolve in time.

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