New-home sales up 2.7% in September

Sales of new homes recorded an unexpected increase in September as median home prices dropped to the lowest level in four years, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

Sales of new single-family homes rose by 2.7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 464,000 homes, Commerce said. Economists had expected sales would drop from the August level.

The median price of a new home sold in September declined by 9.1 percent from a year ago to $218,400, the lowest since September 2004, a period when home prices were rising rapidly as the country was experiencing a five-year housing boom.

The surprising increase in September sales still left them 33.1 percent below the level of a year ago as the country weathers its worst housing slump in decades.

The report on a rise in new-home sales followed news last week that sales of existing homes rose in September by 5.5 percent, the largest monthly gain in more than five years.

Analysts are not convinced, however, that the sales increases are signaling a bottom for the housing market. They note that the September gains came before the latest upheavals in financial markets, which have raised new worries about the overall state of the economy.

Results differed between regions. New-home sales fell by 21.4 percent in the Northeast and were down 5.8 percent in the Midwest. But sales rose by a sharp 22.7 percent in the West, which has seen some of the biggest declines in prices, which may have spurred sales. Sales inched up 0.7 percent in the South.