The Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development have released New Residential Sales data for March 2011.
New Residential Sales data provides statistics on the sales of new
privately-owned single-family residential structures in the United States. Data
included in the press release are (1) the number of new single-family houses
sold; (2) the number of new single-family houses for sale; and (3) the median
and average sales prices of new homes sold.
A house is considered sold when either a sales contract has been signed or a deposit accepted. Included in our estimates are houses for which a sales contract is signed or deposit accepted before construction has actually started; for instance, houses sold from a model or from plans before any work has started on the footings or foundations. These estimates also include houses sold while under construction or after completion. This survey does not follow through to the completion ("closing") of the sales transaction, so even if the transaction is not finalized, the house is still considered sold. Preliminary new home sales figures are subject to revision due to the survey methodology and definitions used. The survey is primarily based on a sample of houses selected from building permits.
New residential sales estimates only include new single-family residential structures. Sales of multi-family units are excluded from these statistics.
Here is a Quick Recap from Reuters...
RTRS - US MARCH SINGLE-FAMILY HOME SALES 300,000 UNIT ANN. RATE (CONS 280,000) VS FEB 270,000 (PREV 250,000)
RTRS - US MARCH SINGLE-FAMILY HOME SALES +11.1 PCT VS FEB -13.5 PCT (PREV -16.9 PCT)
RTRS - US MARCH HOME SALES NORTHEAST +66.7 PCT, MIDWEST +12.9 PCT, SOUTH -0.6 PCT, WEST +25.9 PCT
RTRS - US MARCH NEW HOME SUPPLY 7.3 MONTHS' WORTH AT CURRENT PACE VS FEB 8.2 MONTHS
RTRS - US MARCH MEDIAN SALE PRICE $213,800, -4.9 PCT FROM MARCH 2010 ($224,800)
RTRS - US HOMES FOR SALE AT END OF MARCH 183,000 UNITS VS FEB 185,000 UNITS
RTRS - US MARCH HOMES FOR SALE LOWEST SINCE AUG 1967 (181,000)
Excerpts from the Release....
Sales of new single-family houses in March 2011 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 11.1 percent (±21.7%)* above the revised February rate of 270,000, but is 21.9 percent (±10.3%) below the March 2010 estimate of 384,000.
The median sales price of new houses sold in March 2011 was $213,800; the average sales price was $246,800. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of March was 183,000. This represents a supply of 7.3 months at the current sales rate.
No surprises here. The New Home Sales survey is primarily based on a sample of houses selected from building permits. That means we can look to Building Permits data ("Jump in Building Permits Hints at Uptick in New Home Sales") for an indication of New Home Sales. Once again, New Home Sales followed the direction of Building Permits after a decline in February.
Regarding the margin of error of ±21.7%:
More explanation from the Census Bureau: "These statistics are
estimated from sample surveys. They are subject to sampling variability as well
as nonsampling error including bias and variance from response, nonreporting,
and undercoverage. Estimated average relative standard errors of the
preliminary data are shown in the tables. Whenever a statement such as "2.5
percent (±3.2%) above" appears in the text, this indicates the range (-0.7 to
+5.7 percent) in which the actual percent change is likely to have occurred.
All ranges given for percent changes are 90-percent confidence intervals and
account only for sampling variability. If a range does not contain zero, the
change is statistically significant. If it does
contain zero, the change is not statistically significant; that is, it is
uncertain whether there was an increase or decrease. The same policies
apply to the confidence intervals for percent changes shown in the
TRANSLATION: Since New Home Sales in March were 11.1 percent over February with a ±21.7% standard error, the Census Bureau survey indicates the month over month percentage change in New Home Sales was between -10.6% and +32.8% with 90% certainty. So once again we don't know if New Home Sales improved or declined in March. The standard error is so big that it distorts the data...we must consider it "statistically insignificant". When looking at the year over year comparison however, versus March 2010, the year over year chance of -21.9 percent with a ±10.3% standard error suggests a range of -32.2 to -11.6, which IS actually statistically significant according to the Census Bureau's "does not contain zero" criterion.