New-home sales fall for first time in five months?

More home buyers turned to older homes in January, pushing sales of new homes down 0.9% in their first drop in five months.

Sales of new residential properties slipped nationally to a seasonally adjusted rate of 321,000 from December's 324,000, which had been the highest rate in a year, according to the Commerce Department.

But compared with January 2011, sales were up 3.5%. The median price of a new home was $217,000, down 9.6% year over year.

Still, buyers rattled by high unemployment and mixed economic messages were leaning more toward existing homes, which are usually less expensive than new ones.

About 151,000 new homes were listed for sale — a record low. The homes will take 5.6 months to sell off, according to the report.

In the West, new-home sales were up 5.6% compared with last January. Sales were up 15.3% in the South but slumped 11.9% in the Midwest and 39.4% in the Northeast.

As for homes yet to be constructed, builders are still feeling the hurt, according to the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California.

The number of new construction permits pulled for properties took a nose dive in three major counties last month compared with a year earlier, deflating 44% in Los Angeles County, 53% in Orange County and 41% in San Bernardino County.

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