New U.S. homes sold at an annual rate of 539,000 in February to mark the best month of sales in seven years, the government reported Tuesday. The pace of sales for January was also revised up sharply to 500,000. It's the first time annualized sales have hit 500,000 or more for two straight months since early 2008, though demand is still far lower compared to the years prior to the Great Recession. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast sales to total a seasonally adjusted 455,000 last month. The median sales price climbed 2.6% to $275,500 in February from a year ago. All the homes now on the market would be sold in 4.7 months at the current sales pace, down from 5.7 months in January. That leaves the supply of new homes for sale at the lowest point since Jun 2013. Unless more homes are built soon, the lack of supply could force prices higher in the spring months when home buying is typically at a peak and potentially constrain sales. Builders have filed permits to increase construction, though they have been focusing more on condos and townhouses than single-family homes. The rise in new home sales in February is at odds with other reports on existing home sales and new construction that showed a decline last month owing to heavy snow in large swaths of the eastern United States.
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