NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Don’t look to the new home market for glad economic tidings: Home builders had another dismal sales month in October, falling to just one-fifth of the sales rate during the boom five years ago.
New home sales dropped to an annual pace of just 283,000, according to the Commerce Department. That was down 8.1% from a slow September and 28.5% from 12 months ago when the annualized sales rate was at 430,000.
“The new home market delivered another turkey of a performance last month,” said Mike Larson, a housing market analyst with Weiss Research. “Sales fell sharply across most of the country.”
Sales are off nearly 80% from the housing boom peak pace of 1.4 million, set in July 2005. Sales have remained near historic lows this year despite very attractive mortgage interest rates that slash the monthly costs of homeownership.
The Commerce Department also revised August sales figures downward to 275,000, which represents the record low point for new homes sales since it started tracking figures in 1963.
There’s a major factor depressing home sales of all kinds, according to David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.
“We’re fallen significantly in the number of people forming their own households,” he said. “They’re worried about the economy and they’re worried about their jobs.”
Usually, household formation rises 1% a year or more as people get married, come to the states from overseas, and start careers.
But the poor economy has meant that many grads can’t find jobs, and so they move in with parents instead or double up with peers. Fewer immigrants arrive and couples delay marriage. All of those things diminish home sales.
When people do look for homes, they find a glut of existing homes competing with new homes for sale, according to Larson.
“So much bargain-priced, ‘used’ home inventory is available that the builders just can’t compete,” he said. “Over time, we’ll work through that mountain of existing home supply. But the key words are ‘over time.’ New home builders won’t have much to be thankful about any time soon.