Jump in January Sales Signals Good Year for Builders

New-home sales jumped nearly 16% in January to a level not seen since the summer of 2008, according to newly released government data.

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday morning that sales of newly constructed homes jumped to a 437,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate in January from a 378,000 rate in November. The November rate was revised upward by 9,000 units.

Sales rose in all regions including a month-over-month increase of 28% in the Northeast and 45% in the West.

The breakout in new-home sales also surprised Wall Street analysts. The consensus estimate was a 380,000 rate and the most optimistic was a 409,000 rate.

Tuesday’s report also confirms that inventories are lean. There are just 150,000 newly constructed homes on the market, which is a 4-month supply at the current sales rate.

“January’s new-home sales figures tell us that builders were justified in ramping up on starts and that they are likely to pick up the pace this year since inventories remain lean,” said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight.

“Looking forward, we are expecting better numbers this year,” Newport said, with sales rising to 449,000 from 367,000 in 2012.

Overall, the Census Bureau report shows new-home sales are up 29% from January 2012.