T'was the best of times, t'was the worst of times.

It all depends on who you ask and when you ask them.

Two more housing surveys were released this week with very contrary results and it seems ever more clear that the housing market is either going to take a long while to sort itself out and decide which way to head or it may just see-saw or drift without ever resolving the question of the housing bubble.

The National Association of Realtors issued their report on the sales of existing homes for the month of April (the figures we reported last week were for the first quarter of 2006) and they showed that sales were easing off after two months of increases. But, a day earlier the Census Bureau in a joint release with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced that, to the surprise of almost everyone, new home sales had jumped nearly 5 percent above the March rate for total estimated annual sales of 1,198,000 units.



The NAR numbers which include sales of previously owned single family houses, condos, townhouses, and co-ops slipped 2 percent from downwardly revised March figures of 6.90 million to a seasonally adjusted annual level of 6.76 million units. This was 5.7 percent below the pace of existing house sales in April of 2005 on a seasonally adjusted basis and -10.1 percent unadjusted.

At present there is a six month inventory of houses available for sale at the present consumption rate compared with 5.6 months of inventory indicated by revised March figures. One year ago there was a 4.3 month backlog of houses for sale.

In spite of slowing sales, median and average sales prices were both up over March figures and year-over-year. The median price nationally was $223,000 in April compared to 218,000 in March. This April figure was 4.2 percent higher than the median of $214,000 one year ago. The Northeast showed the greatest increase in the median price since last year, 5.6 percent.

The average price nationally was $269,000, $4,000 higher than in March and 3.1 percent higher than last year. Average prices increased the most in the West where prices were up 3.9 percent year over year.

Census Bureau/HUD information on new house sales painted a brighter picture. Estimated new home sales for April totaled 1,198,000 (annualized) compared to the 1,142,000 projected in March, an increase of 4.9 percent. In spite of this good news, April 2006 sales are expected to be 5.7 percent lower than in April of 2005.

At present there is an inventory of new homes which is expected to take 5.2 months to sell at the current rate compared to a five month supply in March and a six month inventory in February. One year ago there was a 3.8 month supply of new homes on the market. Houses that sold this April had been on the market for a median period of 4.0 months compared to 3.9 months in March and 4.4 months one year ago.

The median price of a new home in April was $238,500, an increase of $6,500 since last month and the average price was $298,300, up from $291,200. Both median and averages prices fell significantly from February to March so it is hard to draw any conclusions about trends from the current figures.