MBA Chart of the Week: Census vs. MBA–New Home Sales Estimates (Not Seasonally Adjusted)


Source: Census Bureau; MBA Builder Application Survey  

The Mortgage Bankers Association estimates new single-family home sales were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 554,000 units in December, or 40,000 units on an unadjusted basis, based on data from our Builder Application Survey.   

Over the past three years, the year-end totals of new home sales based on the BAS have been similar to Census Bureau totals, although the exact time pattern has varied. We estimate that our sample covers about 27 percent of the national NHS total, whereas the Census sample may have more even geographic coverage but only contains a few percent of the total.  

One striking difference in the recent data, which the Census may still revise, is the pattern of new home sales around the time of the hurricanes in September. Our series experienced a drop in September, followed by two months of “catch-up” before settling back to a more normal pace of seasonal activity in December. By contrast, the Census NHS series dipped in August ahead of the hurricanes and then increased in September as well as the two subsequent months   

Relative to Census totals from a year ago, we find that new home sales grew by more than 8 percent in 2017. We are anticipating only low single-digit growth in 2018. Despite robust demand, a lack of labor and land will continue to constrain growth in new home sales.  

(Lynn Fisher is vice president of research and economics with MBA; she can be reached at Joel Kan associate vice president of economic forecasting with MBA; he can be reached at Anh Doan is senior financial analyst with MBA. She can be reached at