WASHINGTON – Purchases of new U.S. homes rose in April for the first time in three months as buyers took advantage of falling mortgage rates.
Sales increased 6.4 percent, the most since October, to a 433,000 annualized pace from a revised 407,000 in March that was larger than initially estimated, Commerce Department data showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for the rate to accelerate to 425,000. The April gain reflected a surge in Midwest sales.
Declining borrowing costs and greater employment opportunities raise the prospects for an industry that has struggled to build on gains made earlier last year. A pickup in construction that puts more properties on the market and slows price gains would help improve affordability and attract buyers.
“We definitely are seeing a rebound in activity,” Anika Khan, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, N.C., said before the report. “We are in the middle of the home-buying season and should start to see a bit more pickup with more traditional buyers coming into the market” even as first-time home buyers remain on the sidelines.
Estimates for April home sales ranged from 395,000 to 460,000 after a previously estimated 384,000 pace a month earlier. New-home sales, which account for about 7 percent of the residential market, are tabulated when contracts are signed, making them a timelier barometer than transactions on existing homes.
Figures yesterday from the National Association of Realtors showed a 1.3 percent gain in closings on sales of previously owned homes. Closings typically occur a month or two after a contract is signed. A bigger supply of properties helped lure buyers, the data showed. The number of available properties climbed to an almost two-year high, helping slow the pace of price appreciation.
At the same time, the existing-home sales figures included signs of underlying softness. Investors continued to play a big role in the market, the April increase was driven mainly by purchases of condominiums and the share of first-time buyers was little changed.