October New Home Sales Hit Record

New Home Sales Hit Record Level in Oct.

Sales of new homes soared at a record pace in October in what could be a last hurrah for the booming housing market.

The Commerce Department said that sales of new single-family homes shot up by 13 percent last month, the biggest one-month gain in more than 12 years. The increase pushed sales to an all-time high seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.42 million units.

The increase confounded analysts who had been predicting that new home sales would decline by 1.8 percent, reflecting continued increases in mortgage rates. It was possible that the unexpected surge reflected a final rush by buyers to get into the market before mortgage rates climb higher.

Link to the Census Bureau Report:
October New Residential Sales

I’ll let you folks draw your own conclusions. I expected a much more significant decline, both in sales numbers and median price.

Caveat Emptor,

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51 Responses to October New Home Sales Hit Record

  1. NJGal says:

    Very weird. But actually, maybe not. It may be that final surge trying to get in, and being taken in by slight price decreases and incentives. Do new home sales lag? Do the Oct. numbers reflect October purchases or September? I think the sales of existing homes is more telling for the Northeast anyway. In many areas, there really isn’t all that much new construction, except for condos.

  2. grim says:

    According to Briefing.com/Yahoo:

    The report indicates the level of new privately owned one-family houses sold and for sale. New home sales usually have a lagged reaction to changing mortgage rates. They also tend to be stronger early in the business cycle when pent-up demand is strong, and they fade later in the cycle as the demand for housing is sated. In addition to home sales, the market monitors the number of homes for sale relative to the current sales pace. As this inventory measure falls (rises), housing starts tend to rise (fall). Finally, the median home price provides an indication of inflation in the housing sector, though only year/year changes provide any meaningful information.

    The home sales report is quite volatile and subject to huge revisions, making any one month’s reading very unreliable. The report rarely prompts a market reaction. The market prefers the existing home sales report, which has a sample data pool four times as large and is released earlier in the month.

  3. this was not such a huge shock to me. i think it is a bunch of non-savvy mid-western rube investors who are tryign to late to catch onto the housing craze.

  4. grim says:

    Yields jumping back up in the bond market.

    This, along with other recent economic data, gives the Fed more reason to keep pushing rates upward.


  5. Sugee says:

    In the town where I live (Iselin in Woodbridge township) the new homes seemed to be inventorying up for sometime. But since the really old homes (50 to 60 years old) have jacked up their asking prices so much (350 to 450K), it is possible that new homes at 100 to 200K more are starting making more sense. Also I saw a decline in the prices of new homes over this year. New homes used to be listed 525K+ a few months ago but I now see some new homes listed at 470K onwards. With interest rates still affording more room, perhaps the attention would turn to the new homes. I follow the prices at http://www.realtor.com.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Historically, new home sales are more of a leading indicator than existing home sales. Much as I would like to say that the bubble has burst, this report seems to indicate otherwise. Its important to be objective and unfortunately, this report is so much stronger than expected (43% rise in the Northeast !!) that I think the bubble may last even longer.

    What this means for NJ numbers is another story. We know that NJ has cooled off, and we do have numbers to that effect.

    It may be that with gas prices falling and consumer confidence rising, we see another final bubble jump.

    Also, these are single family homes, and those are not typically driven by investors.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hang on a moment — the 43% rise in the NE is from the last month. From October 2004, there is a 16.5% decline in the NorthEast.

    While the jump from last month is still pretty high, on the whole new home sales in the North East still declined.

  8. grim says:

    These numbers are largely useless. I didn’t catch the level of variance in the estimates until after I posted.

    Read the first paragraph of the census report over again if you haven’t.

    This is 13.0% (+-17.7%) above the revised September rate…

    This means the actual number falls somewhere between a -4.7% decline and a 30.7% increase. With a range that wide, it’s almost negligent to these estimates.

    So which is it? Neither, these numbers are entirely worthless.


  9. RentinginNJ says:

    “It may be that with gas prices falling and consumer confidence rising, we see another final bubble jump.”

    It’s entirely possible. The NASDAQ bubble has its most spectacular gains in the weeks before the bubble burst. We all need to keep in mind that bubbles aren’t rational, so trying to rationalize what is happening may be an exercise in futility.

    If anything, this will give the Fed justification to continue their campaign of removing policy accommodation. I don’t expect the Fed to signal an end to rate hikes just yet.

  10. Grim Ghost says:

    James — I agree the 95% confidence interval is very high, yet its not the case that all numbers in that range are equally probable. Its still far more likely to be towards the center of that interval than elsewhere.

    As a former engineering grad, I hate the idea of dismissing numbers just because I don’t like them.

  11. grim says:

    From an engineering perspective..

    “Yes sir, we’re 90% certain this 100 million dollar expedition probe will land on Mars, err.. well.. actually.. more accurately.. somewhere within +/- 17.7% of Mars..”


    I agree, we can’t throw out numbers we don’t like. However, we need to understand the nature of the number before we can trust it.


  12. All you need to consider:

    3/10/2000 5048
    3/15/2000 4582
    3/24/2000 4963
    4/5/2000 4149
    4/14/2000 3321

    As grim noted, we have no confirmation as to the veracity of these numbers anyway.

    I WILL say that do not let your overall conclusion cloud your judgement. You must remain objective in order to prevent ignoring the information that doesn’t support your viewpoint. Just because history, economics, and logical is on your side doesn’t mean that this situation will unfold in the way we expect or at the velocity we would hope.

  13. grim says:

    The market doesn’t believe these numbers either. The HB stocks initially rallied quite spectacularly shortly after this data was released. I believe TOL alone hit over 4%, a signficant spike. However, shortly after 10.30, the rally collapsed and TOL now sits at a daily gain of 0.17%. The entire rally wiped out.

    If this data was so positive, why didn’t the homebuilder rally stick?

  14. grim says:

    I agree, we can’t dismiss data. Grim Ghost and ChicagoFinance are correct. Just because we were hopeful of a negative report, we can’t dismiss it, we need to be objective about the numbers.

    So what do you all think about the numbers? Does this mean the housing boom will continue onwards? Was this just a last chance blip by desparate buyers?


  15. skep-tic says:

    maybe a small dip in prices brought buyers in from the sidelines. again, the notion that homes are overvalued is just beginning to creep into mainstream news. most people still aren’t aware of just how much prices are out of line. so a small dip brings in buyers who think this might be their last chance.

    this could happen several times in the coming months. but as long as inventory builds steadily, prices will correct

  16. Grim Ghost says:

    One thing to note is that this blog is focused primarily on Northern NJ and nearby areas. We know the Northeast was below last year, so we already have significant cooling in NJ.

    Maybe this is the way the bubble will unravel (pardon mixed metaphors). Region after region will cool and see drops. That would cushion the blow to the overall economy more as there would be more time for adjustment.

    Also, are most readers here that concerned about RE outside of Northern NJ and the NYC metro area ? I’m not. I follow california because I still own an old small condo in the Bay area, but I don’t care that much what the other markets do.

  17. skep-tic says:

    the Boston market is definitely in a decline. Boston tends to be among the first during a boom and among the first to fall.

    and the boston market is pretty similar to the NY metro market. not a lot of new home construction relatively speaking. mostly older homes and rapidly aging populations. a lot of people who work in high paying professions like financial services. high property taxes.

    while I don’t care too much about Boston in particular, I am enjoying seeing prices decline there as an indicator of what will happen in NY

  18. It is obvious to me that pain has yet to be inflicted.

    Potential buyers are CHOOSING not to buy, but they still have the means. Pain occurs when people CANNOT buy.

    Sellers are playing with “house money” and are merely CHOOSING to shave the size of their gains. Pain occurs when sellers sell at a loss, and MUST move to a smaller home in a less desirable area.

    Have we seen carnage yet? Not at all.

    Other factors: people we spooked by energy and the FED, but may be mistakenly emboldened by the seeming status quo.

    The manner that this situation is unraveling is so unfortunate, because the potential bloodshed increases with every mirage that appears :(

  19. skep-tic says:

    This post has been removed by the author.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Lots of Fools always buy at the top of a bubble. Notjing ever changes.
    Just looked at the sherriff sales starting to pick up. One sucker has a $600,000+ liability.


  21. Anonymous says:

    Check out the report from USA TODAY – http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/20051129/bs_usatoday/housingsalesslipasinventoriespricesincrease

    “The overall number of units on the market is the largest since April 1986.”

  22. Anonymous says:

    Records are a perfect indicator of bubble tops.

    Just look back to march 2000. NASDAQ market top. Margin borrowing hit a record level of $275 billion near or at the eaxct top in the market.

    Looking forward to the cascading decline. The first wave down is fast and brutal.

  23. grim says:

    Anyone care to speculate on the personal savings rate data expected this Thursday? Are we going to be negative again?

  24. Michelle says:

    Stupid question: When available inventory figures are quoted, do they include new homes, or only resales?

  25. grim says:

    Treasuries Fall After Consumer Confidence and Home Sales Rise

    Futures on the federal funds rate show traders have fully priced in an increase to 4.25 percent at the next meeting on Dec. 13. The odds of an increase to 4.5 percent at the following meeting on Jan. 31 are about 84 percent, up from 80 percent yesterday. For March, the odds of a 4.75 percent rate that month rose to 56 percent from 36 percent.

    Looks like the market is moving to price in 3 more quarter point hikes.


  26. Grim Ghost says:

    in this weekend’s paper the incentive was “We’ll pay your mortgage till Jamuary 2006”.

    Doesn’t sound like much of an offer. Do you mean January 2007 ? Jan 2006 is already on us.

    Kara Homes (which is largely Southern and Central NJ) had a similar incentive as well. Look to see lots of such offers from HBs — huge option packages, discounted financing, even offers to pay closing costs. These are all attempts to prevent the median price from falling.

  27. grim says:

    Anecdotal reports country wide of builders offering huge discounts or credits on upgrades.

    Agree, all smoke and mirrors to ensure the median home price stay elevated. These builders could easily (and significantly) underprice recent sales to move inventory. Unfortunately, those tactics will have a clear impact on consumer psychology.


  28. Anth says:

    Note sure what this forecasts. anyone?

    Mortgage limit raised to $417,000
    (The 2005 limit is $359,650)

    Is this the fed trying to help un-screw smaller banks?

  29. Michelle says:

    @ Grim Ghost,

    Sorry, that was January 2007.

    My bad.

  30. grim says:


    That move was largely expected, many lenders already pushed up their jumbo loan limits months ago in anticipation of this move.


  31. grim says:

    Seems I at least beat MarketWatch to the punch..

    Betting on the bubble

    Analysis: Data on home sales open to interpretation

    Indeed, according to the Commerce Department, it’s not certain that sales rose at all during October. The confidence interval for new-home sales was 17.7% in October, which means sales could have risen as much as 30.7% or fallen as much as 4.7% and still be within the normal range. The government says it takes six months to establish a new trend.


  32. skep-tic says:

    a housing sector analyst on Nightly Business Report just said to sell all builder stocks. didn’t even attempt to hedge

  33. skep-tic says:

    also just found new development in Armonk, NY that is offering to pay property taxes for 2 yrs. these are $2 million+ houses, so property taxes for two years should be at least $100,000.

    seems like those who can afford a $2 million house shouldn’t be worried about property taxes anyway

  34. grim says:

    Motley Fool also voiced concern over the census numbers.

    Housing Roars Back? Not So Fast.

    Not so fast. Check out the fine print on the commerce department’s report — something the headline writers out there will never do. If you look past the breezy conclusions in the media, you’ll find out just how reliable these latest data are.

    Which is to say, they aren’t reliable at all. The reality is this. The monthly sequential sales number is a 13% “increase” subject to a margin of error of plus or minus 17.7%. The year-over-year “increase” of 9% is subject to a margin of error of plus or minus 18.2%.

    That means that it’s not proper to call these “increases” at all. They could, in fact, be decreases. (Alternatively, they could be much larger increases.)

    It’s incredible to me (or is that appalling?) that anyone might make a major financial decision, like a stock investment or home purchase, under the influence of such ambiguous figures. What’s worse is that the news sources out there can’t even be bothered to explain that they are ambiguous. But then, news editors are often loath to let reality and its pesky details get in the way of a story. “The answer is unclear” just doesn’t fly.


  35. xSpartaNJ says:

    New house sales up!! Not so fast. In most parts of Florida it takes 9-12 months to build a house from contract. Sold mens at “Closing”. Thus the sales figures are realy 9-12 months ago………..Stale data.

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