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May 23, 2019, 2:28 p.m. EDT

New-home sales slump 7% in April after reaching the best level of the cycle

For the year to date, sales are 6.7% higher than the same period last year.

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By Andrea Riquier


Getty Images
Construction worker framing a building against a sunny blue sky.

The numbers: New-home sales were at a 673,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate in April, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That was 6.9% lower than March, but that month’s tally was revised sharply higher. April’s figures nearly matched the MarketWatch consensus forecast for a 670,000 pace of sales.

What happened: Even though home sales fell in April, the trend is solidly up. The revised March sales figures were the highest since October 2007, and there were upward revisions to every month stretching back to December.

Sales were 7% higher than a year ago in April.

The median sales price in April, $342,200, was 8% higher than a year ago. At the current pace of sales, it would take 5.9 months to exhaust available supply, about matching the 6 months that’s traditionally been considered the marker of an evenly balanced market.

In the year to date, sales are 6.7% higher than the same period a year ago.

See: Another real estate evolution: New Redfin program will enable home purchases with no agent

Big picture: Americans still want to be homeowners, but they face stiff headwinds. Reporting on sales figures for previously-owned homes in April, the National Association of Realtors said properties stayed on the market for an average of only 24 days that month. Americans are also keeping a careful eye on mortgage rates: applications jump as rates decline.

Meanwhile, the pace of new-home construction is still tepid. In the year to date, builders have started 7.2% fewer homes than in the same period last year.

See: Home builder confidence hits a 7-month high in May as housing market headwinds ease

What they’re saying: Data from a monthly survey “confirms that the housing downturn that was materializing last year appears to have abated,” according to stock research firm BTIG and HomeSphere, a digital marketplace that connects building product manufacturers to homebuilders. Nearly half of all builders reported sales were higher in April than a year ago, the best reading since August, and a little more than half reported traffic was up, the best showing since July.

Market reaction : Big publicly-traded builders have had a fantastic 2019: D.R. Horton, Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202032328/composite DHI +0.90%   shares have gained 26% so far, while Meritage Homes Corporation /zigman2/quotes/209069331/composite MTH +0.71%   shares are up more than 39%. But there have been warning signs in the most recent round of earnings news. Shares of Toll Brothers, Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201912487/composite TOL -0.02%   slid nearly 4% Wednesday after the company reported sales were down 9% compared to a year ago.

Read: Up 26% so far this year, are home builder stocks too frothy?

/zigman2/quotes/202032328/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 53.97
+0.48 +0.90%
Volume: 3.55M
Oct. 18, 2019 6:30p
P/E Ratio
12.96
Dividend Yield
1.11%
Market Cap
$20.31 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.93M
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/zigman2/quotes/209069331/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 75.00
+0.53 +0.71%
Volume: 472,255
Oct. 18, 2019 6:30p
P/E Ratio
14.44
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$2.87 billion
Rev. per Employee
$4.61M
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/201912487/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 40.59
-0.01 -0.02%
Volume: 1.26M
Oct. 18, 2019 6:30p
P/E Ratio
8.62
Dividend Yield
1.08%
Market Cap
$5.70 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.50M
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Andrea Riquier reports on housing and banking from MarketWatch's New York newsroom. Follow her on Twitter @ARiquier.

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