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New single-family home sales fell 2.2% to an annual rate of 307,000 in December from 314,000 a month earlier, according to the Commerce Department.
The seasonally adjusted rate, dropped 7.3% from 331,000 a year earlier. The preliminary estimate for actual new homes sold in 2011 came in at 302,000, 6.2% below 323,000 sold in 2010. Annual sales marked a new low since at least 1963, the start of Commerce Department records.
For some perspective, builders sold 1.28 million new homes in 2005.
Analysts surveyed by Econoday expected new homes sales at an seasonally adjusted annual rate of 320,000 in December with a range of estimates between 309,000 and 326,000.
Actual homes sold fell to the second-lowest monthly total in December at 21,000 from 22,000 a month earlier. The record low came in November 2010 at 20,000 new homes sold.
Homes sold at a median price of $210,300 in December, with an average price of $266,000. Median time on market fell to 6.7 months from 7.3 months in November and 7.9 months a year earlier.
The Commerce Department compiles data from surveys, which are subject to sampling variability. The Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development release the statistics each month.
Write to Andrew Scoggin.
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