Sales of newly built, single-family homes were unchanged in August, holding at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 288,000 units and matching July’s revised sales figures, according to data released by the U.S. Commerce Department last week.

“Today’s report is in keeping with recent builders surveys that indicated that most potential home buyers have put off buying due to uncertainty about the economy and job market,” says Bob Jones, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “However, many of our members remain frustrated because they can’t get loans for viable projects and are turning customers away.”

“The general housing market is clearly in a holding pattern,” adds NAHB chief economist David Crowe. “While historically low interest rates and affordable prices should attract potential home buyers to the market, the slow pace of economic recovery and worries about job security are keeping many of them on the fence. Unfortunately, in the regions where we are seeing increasing demand, builders are stymied by the inability to get loans to build homes.”

Sales of new homes increased in the Northeast and West by 16.7 percent and 54.3 percent, respectively. The Midwest and South posted double-digit declines of 26.1 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively.

When it comes to total housing starts nationwide this figure rose 10.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 598,000 units in August, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures also released last week.

While most of the month’s gain occurred on the multifamily side, single-family housing production, which increased 4.3 percent to 436,000 units, was still 9.1 percent below August 2009 as builders struggled to obtain finance and remained cautious about sustained demand, according to the NAHB.

Three regions registered improved starts activity in August, with the Midwest, South and West posting gains of 21.7 percent, 7.0 percent and 34.3 percent, respectively. The Northeast posted a 24.3 percent decline in starts this August.

Permit issuance, which can be an indicator of future building activity, rose 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 569,000 units in August. All of the gains were on the multifamily side, which rose 9.7 percent to 168,000 units.

Single-family permits fell 1.2 percent to 401,000 units. This was 6.7 percent below August 2009. Regionally, permits were up 19.0 percent in the West, remained flat in the Northeast and fell 5.3 percent in the Midwest and 2.5 percent in the South in August.

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