WASHINGTON – Sales of new U.S. homes fell 11.3 percent in November, the biggest decline in nearly 12 years, as the number of houses for sale hit a record high, according to a government report on Friday that offered more evidence of a cooling housing market.
The Commerce Department said sales of new single-family homes fell to a 1.245 million unit pace in November -- slower than expected -- after striking a record in October.
Wall Street economists had expected sales to slow sharply in November, although only to a 1.305 million unit pace, due to rising interest rates. October's originally reported record rate of 1.424 million units was revised down to still-record 1.404 million.
The number of new homes on the market at the end of November climbed to a record 503,000. At the current sales pace, that represented 4.9 months' supply -- the highest level since December 1996, when the number of homes available for sale amounted to a 5 months' supply at the prevailing sales pace at that time.
The Commerce Department report showed new home sales fell throughout most of the United States, except for the Northeast, where sales rose 13.4 percent.
The median home sales price fell 4.1 percent in November to $225,200 from $234,800 the prior month, the Commerce Department said.
This report marked the latest in a string of data suggesting softening in the U.S. housing market after a five-year rally that toppled construction and sales records and pushed prices up more than 50 percent nationwide.
Following some anecdotal evidence of cooling over the summer months, economic data on the housing market began to offer signs of moderation after mortgage rates started to climb in September.