New single-family houses sold in July at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 433,000, 9.6% above June's rate but 13.4% below the year-ago rate. New homes sold at a median price of $210,100, although the average came in slightly higher at $269,200, according to the most recent data released jointly by the US Census Bureau and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The unsold inventory at the end of July came in at an estimated 271,000 units, a 7.5-month supply at the current sales rate. Excess inventory has continued to decline all year, from 12.4 months of supply at January's sales rate, to 8.5 months of supply at the end of June. The July sales rate's 9.6% increase from June came in much higher than the expected 1.6% rise, according to Rebecca Blank, US Commerce Under Secretary for Economic Affairs. Sales rose 31.6% above their low in January. “These new numbers are another sign that we have put the brakes on the worst economic downturn in generations,” Blank said in a statement. Write to Diana Golobay.