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US new-home sales climbed 6.7 per cent in May

WASHINGTON — Sales of new U.S. homes jumped 6.7 per cent in May, with purchases in the South accounting for all of the monthly gains.

The Commerce Department said Monday that new homes sold last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 689,000, up from 646,000 in April. The South reported monthly sales growth of 17.9 per cent, while sales were flat in the Midwest and fell in the Northeast and West.

For the first five months of this year, new-home sales have risen 8.8 per cent as a solid job market and shortage of existing homes on the market have boosted demand. In a sign that buyers are eagerly seeking out properties among a diminished inventory, there was a 17.4 per cent surge last month in the sale of homes before construction begins.

Buyers are also facing additional pressures as home values are generally rising faster than incomes and average 30-year mortgage rates have risen to 4.57 per cent from 3.90 per cent a year ago. Both of these factors are increasing the monthly costs for repaying home loans.

Still, the government report on new-home sales can be volatile on a monthly basis, especially when any growth or setbacks are focused in one region of the country. May’s median sales price dropped 3.3 per cent from a year ago to $313,000. But the decline was largely because the sales growth was concentrated in the South, where new homes are generally cheaper.

Josh Boak, The Associated Press

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