New-home activity up in Utah, U.S.
Housing • Building permit numbers rise locally, sales climb in most regions of country.
Published: May 23, 2012 10:45PM
Updated: May 23, 2012 07:48PM
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(AP Photo/Seth Perlman) A pickup in hiring and cheaper mortgages, combined with lower home prices in most markets, has made homebuying more attractive, although the pace remains weak.

Homebuilding activity increased in April along the Wasatch Front and nationally.

Builders locally took out permits for the construction of 583 single-family homes, up from 357 in April 2011, according to Construction Monitor, a service that tracks homebuilding in the West.

The data for Utah’s most populous area was mirrored nationally. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that sales of new homes increased 3.3 percent from March, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 343,000.

Sales were up in all regions except the South. The median price rose to $235,700, a slight increase from March.

Even with gain, the pace of new-home sales is well below the 700,000 annual rate that economists equate with healthy markets. Still, the broad-based gains across the country contributed to growing evidence that the home market could finally be rebounding nearly five years after the housing bubble burst.

Separately, U.S. homebuilder Toll Brothers said home deliveries and signed contracts on new homes rose in its latest quarter. Its shares rose more than 2 percent.

The homebuilder earned $16.9 million, or 10 cents per share, for the three months ended April 30. A year earlier it lost $20.8 million, or 12 cents per share.

A pickup in hiring and cheaper mortgages, combined with lower home prices in most markets, has made homebuying more attractive. Builder confidence has increased steadily since the fall.

On Tuesday, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously owned homes increased 3.4 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million. That nearly matched January’s sales pace of 4.63 million, which had been the best in two years.

Although new homes represent less than 20 percent of the housing market, they have an outsized impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to statistics compiled by the National Association of Home Builders.