The pace of new single-family home sales last month outperformed even the most optimistic projections, climbing to a near six-year high, according to government numbers released Wednesday.
The Commerce Department reported new home sales in August were up 18 percent month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 504,000. Compared to August 2013, estimated sales were up 33 percent.
Economists projected a consensus sales pace of 430,000, which would have been a slight increase over July's upwardly revised figure of 427,000. Forecasts ranged from a low of 407,000 to a high of 465,000—still nearly 40,000 short of the government's estimate.
While the early numbers look promising, there's been a great amount of swing between preliminary estimates and revised sales figures throughout the year—as demonstrated just a few months ago, when an originally reported 18.6 percent jump in new sales for May was cut down to just 8.3 percent in a later fix.
Still, August's jump is sure to come as welcome news to homebuilders, who have expressed increasing confidence in new single-family housing even as the market has staggered forward. In a report issued last week, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) revealed its measure of builder sentiment was up to a nine-year high in the latest reading, with perceptions of both current and future sales conditions improving.
"Since early summer, builders in many markets across the nation have been reporting that buyer interest and traffic have picked up, which is a positive sign that the housing market is moving in the right direction," said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly at the time.
The median sales price of new homes sold last month was $275,600, down from more than $280,000 in July. The average sales price was $347,900, up from $345,000.
Seasonally adjusted estimates indicate the stock of new houses for sale at the end of the month was 203,000, translating into a 4.8 months' supply at the current sales rate.