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VOL. 126 | NO. 251 | Monday, December 26, 2011

New-Home Sales Up in Nov. But 2011 Figures Dismal

By DEREK KRAVITZ

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Americans bought slightly more new homes in November, but 2011 will likely end up as the worst year for sales in history.

The Commerce Department says new-home sales rose 1.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 315,000. That’s less than half the 700,000 new homes that economists say should be sold to sustain a healthy housing market.

It’s also below the 323,000 homes sold last year – the worst year for sales on records dating back to 1963. December would have to produce its best monthly sales total in four years for 2011 to finish ahead of last year’s total.

New homes account for less than 10 percent of the housing market. But they have a big impact on the economy. Each new home built creates roughly three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Economists note that housing is a long way from fully recovering and that many people are opting to rent because they can’t afford to buy or don’t feel a home is a wise investment right now.

Home construction has begun a gradual comeback and should add to economic growth in 2011. But the main reason for that increase is that the rate of apartment construction is nearly twice as fast as it was two years ago. Single-family-home construction remains depressed.

Builders have stopped working on many projects because it’s been hard for them to get financing or to compete with cheaper resale homes. In November, builders slashed prices to their lowest levels in more than a year. The median sales price of a new home dropped nearly 4 percent last month to $214,100.

The market for new single-family homes has all but disappeared over the past year.

Rising interest from potential buyers left U.S. homebuilders slightly less pessimistic about the housing market in December, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index. It rose 2 points this month, reaching its highest level since May 2010.

However, sales are slumping though the average rate on a 30-year fixed home loan dropped to a record 3.91 percent.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 66 180 11,618
MORTGAGES 81 223 15,202
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 21 68 2,979
BUILDING PERMITS 0 392 27,646
BANKRUPTCIES 90 218 11,180
BUSINESS LICENSES 26 63 4,101
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 99 422 16,906
MARRIAGE LICENSES 19 62 3,526

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