New-home sales rise 4.4 percent

Sales of newly constructed homes rose 4.4 percent in November from the month before, providing fresh evidence that the country’s housing sector is in recovery.

Newly built single-family homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 377,000 units in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. That was a 15.3 percent increase from November 2011.

The increase indicates a continuation of the housing recovery that began earlier this year. Housing has become a leading source of strength for the long-sluggish American economic recovery as more people compete to buy fewer homes – pushing up prices.

Earlier this week, the Standard &Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of 20 large cities showed prices were down 0.1 percent in October from September as the traditionally slow buying season kicks in. But the index indicates that prices were up 4.3 percent compared with October 2011.

Low inventory has helped make housing competitive this year. The estimated number of new homes available for sale at the end of November was 149,000, a supply that would last less than five months at the current sales rate, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Record-low mortgage rates have helped lure buyers this year. And cash-rich investors have poured into the market, looking to turn a profit on residential real estate.

At the same time, the number of foreclosures has declined, tightening the supply of cheap homes. And move-up buyers, those with equity in their homes looking to buy bigger abodes, have returned in some markets.

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