Sales of new homes in the United States fell in November to a 17-year low, and sale prices for existing homes dropped by the most on record, according to reports released last week.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new-home sales dropped 2.9% from October to an annual pace of 407,000, lower than forecast. The median sales price declined 11.5% from a year earlier, to $220,400. Sales of new homes were down 35% from November 2007.
Also Tuesday, the National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes declined 8.6%, to an annual rate of 4.49 million, from a 4.91 million rate in October that was less than previously estimated. The median price dropped 13.2% from a year earlier, the biggest decline since records started in 1968.
Economists had forecast that new-home sales would drop to a 415,000 pace, according to the median derived from a Bloomberg survey of 65 economists. The Commerce report revised the October sales pace down to 419,000 from the 433,000 rate previously reported.
The government report showed that builders succeeded in trimming inventories faster than sales dropped. The number of homes for sale fell a record 7%, to a seasonally adjusted 374,000, the fewest since February 2004.
Resales were expected to fall to a 4.93 million annual rate from an originally reported 4.98 million in October, according to the median estimate of 63 economists in a Bloomberg survey.
Sales of existing homes dropped 10.6% from a year earlier. Resales totaled 5.65 million in 2007 and, before Tuesday's report, had fluctuated around a 4.96 million annual rate this year.
The number of unsold, previously owned homes on the market at the end of November was an 11.2-months' supply at the current sales pace, up from a 10.3-months' supply at Oct. 31.
The median price of an existing home fell to $181,300, and the percentage drop from a year earlier was "probably the largest price decline since the Great Depression," though records do not go back that far, said the Realtors' chief economist, Lawrence Yun.
Foreclosures and short sales accounted for 45% of last month's home purchases, Mr. Yun said.
Resales of single-family homes fell 8%, to an annual rate of 4.02 million. Sales of existing condominiums and cooperative apartment units declined 13%, to a 470,000 rate.
Existing-home purchases declined 12% in the Northeast, 10.9% in the South, 7.4% in the Midwest, and 4.3% in the West. Prices also fell throughout the country, led by a decline of 25.5% in the West.
Resales account for about 90% of the market. Sales of existing homes are compiled from contract closings and may reflect contracts signed one or two months earlier.
New-home sales, recorded when a contract is signed, are considered by economists to be a more timely barometer.