The Journal Gazette
Saturday, September 25, 2021 1:00 am

Higher costs slow sales of new homes in August

MATT OTT | Associated Press

Sales of new homes in the U.S. rose modestly in August as rising prices continue to sideline potential buyers.

Sales of new homes last month rose 1.5%, the Commerce Department reported Friday, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 740,000. That's more than economists had expected and follows an increase in July, which was revised upward to a seasonally adjusted rate of 729,000 houses.

July's jump came after three consecutive declines in April, May and June as builders grappled with surging lumber prices and a shortage of workers.

Prices for new homes also ticked up in August. The median price for a new home rose $400, to $390,900, more than 20% higher than August 2020 when the median price for a new home was $325,500. Half the prices were higher than the median and half lower.

Builders have been hit with rising costs, and shortages of building materials and labor have rippled through the construction industry. Delays are common, prompting many builders to dial back the number of new homes they put up for sale. As building a new home gets more expensive, some of those costs are passed along to buyers.

The National Association of Realtors reported this week that sales of previously occupied U.S. homes fell in August and soaring prices eased a bit from what's been a torrid pace.

Sales of new homes rose in three of four U.S. regions, according to the Commerce Department, with a steep decline of 31.1% in the Midwest. Sales rose 26.1% in the Northeast, 6% in the South and 1.4% in the West.

Overall, sales of new homes are 24.3% below the pace of a year ago. Sales have cooled in 2021 since January's rate of 993,000 units, but remain at historically high levels.

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