US Home Prices Fall Despite Strong April Sales

Median prices on new single family homes declined in April 2010, even as the number of sales transactions hit its highest level in two years. While the April …

Median prices on new single family homes declined in April 2010, even as the number of sales transactions hit its highest level in two years. While the April 2010 sales transaction news was highlighted as a positive development, many cited the expiration of the federal tax credit as a stimulus for the activity, and investors remain uncertain about the near-term outlook for the US  housing market. The following article from The Street has more on this.

Sales of new one-family houses in April spiked almost 15% over the March level, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 504,000.

It was the second piece of positive home sales data this week from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It was also the highest level of new home sales in two years.

Nevertheless, the strong numbers in both new and existing home sales are set against the fact that the home buyer tax credit that spurred sales is ending — house sales that close by the end of June are still entitled to the credit. April was the official expiration of the homebuyer tax credit, and the removal of the federal stimulus at a time of high foreclosures and unemployment leaves investors uncertain about the housing outlook.

New home sales rose 14.8% exactly in April, above the March rate of 439,000. The April level of new home sales was 47.8% above the April 2009 new home sales level.

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The median sales price of new houses sold in April was $198,400; the average sales price was $249,500.

The median home price of $198,00 represented a decline just short of 10% from the previous month, and was the lowest since December 2003.

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index released on Tuesday also indicated a drop in home pricing across the U.S., and the declines have stimulated fears that a double dip recession could be a real risk with home pricing remaining under pressure.

Regardless, the major homebuilder stocks were rallying on the second piece of positive home sales data this week. Standard Pacific(SPF) was up more than 8% in early trading. Lennar(LEN), Toll Brothers(TOL), D.R. Horton(DHI) and KB Home(KBH) were all up in the range of 4% after the new homes sales data was released.

Homebuilders also received a lift on Wednesday from a better than expected quarterly earnings report from Toll Brothers. In a key indicator of homebuilder recovery from the worst of the housing crisis, Toll, which operates at the luxury end of the market, said that new orders increased 41% in the most recent quarter.

“It appears our business has finally emerged from the tunnel and into a bit of daylight,” Toll Brothers chairman Robert Toll said. “We believe many markets are turning the corner, and housing in general is beginning its recovery,” Toll said, but he said Toll doesn’t expect housing to “roar back right away.”

In recent history, the homebuilder stocks have attracted a higher-than-normal level of short-term trading activity, and have exhibited short term, short-lived spikes on monthly home sales reports.

This article has been republished from The Street. You can also view this article at
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