Newly released figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau also reported that mortgage rates are still favorable despite some increases last year.
"December's decline in new-home sales follows elevated levels in the previous two months and means the fourth quarter was still much stronger than the third," said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. "While we expect sales to gain strength in 2014, builders still face considerable constraints, including tight credit conditions for home buyers, and a limited supply of labor and buildable lots."
NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe agreed.
"Consumers are getting used to more realistic mortgage rates, which still remain favorable on a historical basis," he said. "As household formations and pent-up demand continue to emerge, we anticipate that 2014 will be a strong year for housing."
Regionally, new-home sales activity fell 36.4% in the weather-battered Northeast, 7.3% in the South and 8.8% in the West. The Midwest posted a gain of 17.6%.
The inventory of new homes fell to 171,000 units in February, which is a five-month supply at the current sales pace. Although this is an increase over the previous month, it is due to the slower sales pace in December.