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Washington – U.S. sales of newly built homes fell 0.4% in December, cooling slightly after low mortgage rates fueled gains for much of 2019.

The Commerce Department said Monday that new single-family houses sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 694,000 last month. But for all of 2019, sales climbed 10.3% to 681,000, the highest total since 2006 when 1.05 million new homes were sold amid a housing bubble that led to the Great Recession.

Last year’s gains were driven entirely by new homes purchased in the South and West. Sales of new homes slumped in the Northeast and Midwest in 2019.

Lower mortgage rates began to boost real estate sales relative to 2018. December’s median new-home sales price was $331,400, up 0.5% from a year ago.

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