New-home sales dropped 41.5% in the Northeast

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A contractor stands next to a ladder while working on a home under construction in Louisville, Ky., on Monday. Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Sales of new homes in the United States slid in March by the most since 2013 as the coronavirus started to wreak havoc on the country’s economy.

Single-family home transactions declined 15.4 percent to an annualized 627,000 pace, the lowest in almost a year, government data showed Thursday. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 644,000 rate. The median sales price rose from the prior year to $321,400.

March was the first month when state closures of restaurants, retailers and other nonessential business became more widespread. The data underscore how the pandemic and broader uncertainty about the economy is thwarting potential home buyers.

Other recent housing figures have shown a market in decline. Building sentiment in April declined to the lowest level since mid-2012, mortgage applications plunged at the start of March, and existing home sales dropped by the most since 2015.

March new-home sales in the West slumped 38.5 percent, the biggest monthly decrease in nearly a decade. Purchases also dropped 41.5 percent in the Northeast, 8.1 percent in the Midwest, and 0.8 percent in the South.

Inventory rose as demand declined. The inventory-to-sales ratio climbed to 6.4 months, the highest in nearly a year.

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