New home sales data from the end of last year was delayed because of the government shutdown. Now that the numbers have been released, they contain an unexpected surprise. Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose nearly 4 percent in December from the month before. The gains put 2018 new home sales 1.5 percent higher than the year before. It was also a seven-month high.
However, though rising sales are an encouraging sign, especially since a healthy new home market leads to better conditions for all homebuyers, new home sales data tends to be volatile and is often revised.
For example, part of the reason December numbers increased was that November’s sales were revised downward. This is because new home sales data is based on permits, so it can be unreliable. Still, the fact that there was any improvement at the end of last year is a good sign that buyer demand remains healthy.