This increase was welcomed by financial markets but is likely a seasonal effect since sales of new homes were down 41 percent from a year ago. February's numbers were the second worst on record, surpassed only by January's annual sales rate of 322,000 homes.
Given the current sales rate, the supply of new homes would take 12.2 months to clear, compared with 12.9 months in January and 9.7 months a year ago. A six-month supply of homes is considered a more normal balance between supply and demand.
Sales of exiting homes rose 5.1 percent from January to February, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.72 million units, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday.
The inventory of existing January homes for sale grew by 5.2 percent, to 3.8 million, leaving the supply of homes unchanged from January at 9.7 months but down from a peak of 11.2 months in July.