WASHINGTON — Sales of new single-family homes fell by 1.8% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000 units, according to newly released numbers from the U.S. Commerce Dept. This sales pace was nearly 30% below a year earlier and down by 58% from the peak in July 2005.

“Our latest member surveys confirm that builders have seen an improvement in the number of prospective buyers who are visiting model homes, and consumer attitudes toward home buying have perked up in recent months,” noted NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. “But this hasn't yet translated into greater sales activity, and it stands to reason that additional stimulative measures, such as a temporary home buyer tax credit, FHA modernization and GSE reform, could have substantial positive impacts on both the housing market and the overall economy.”

Regionally, sales activity was mixed in the month of February. The Northeast registered a 40.3% decline while the Midwest posted a 6.4% decline, the South posted a 5.7% increase and the West eked out a 0.7% gain. On a positive note, builders’ efforts to reduce the inventory of new homes on the market drove that number down 2.1% to a seasonally adjusted 471,000 units in February. However, the supply of units at the current sales pace remained unchanged at 9.8 months and the median length of time that completed homes were on the market rose to 7.2 months from 6.7 months in January.

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