Sales of newly built homes were up 17.5% in December from November, ending a dismal year for home builders on an encouraging note.
New homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 329,000 units in December, a 7.6% drop from December 2009, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. A total of 321,000 homes were built in 2010, a 14.2% decline from 2009 and the fewest since the government began keeping records on it in 1963.
"For builders, it was a year they would rather forget," said Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global Insight.
In recent years, newly constructed dwellings have faced stiff competition from previously owned homes, particularly foreclosure properties that have glutted the market ever since the bursting of the housing bubble.
The increase in new home sales was driven by sharp improvement in the West, where December sales reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 110,000 homes, up 71.9% from the previous month.
The median sales price of new houses in December was $241,500, an increase of 13.4% from November and 9.1% from December 2009.
The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of December was 190,000, representing a supply of about seven months.