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Definitions

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Authorized, Not Started
– Estimates of housing units authorized by a building or zoning permit, but for which construction has not yet started, are shown in the "authorized, not started" data series. These only represent the areas of the country that require a building or zoning permit.

Average
– The arithmetic mean, which is obtained by dividing the sum of all values of a characteristic by the number of houses reporting that characteristic. For example, the average sales price of new single-family houses sold is obtained by dividing the sum of all of the sales prices reported by the number of houses reporting a sales price.

Built for Rent
– This category includes all houses built on builder's land with the intention of renting the housing unit.

A lease-purchase, rent-purchase, or other option to eventually buy the house may exist. This also would include retirement community units, occupied under a "life-lease"/"continuing-care" arrangement (occupants pay an up front fee or small monthly fees for lifelong use.)


Built for Sale
– This category includes all houses built on builder's land with the intention of selling the house and land in one transaction. Such a sale is called "fee simple." These units are often called "speculatively-built" houses.

Also included are the following:

  1. Houses purchased and the lot rented
  2. Houses sold as part of a condominium
  3. Houses sold as part of a cooperative project (occupants own stock in the project as a whole, but do not own residential units.)
  4. Houses sold to several individuals in a "time-sharing" arrangement.
Completed Housing
– A house is defined as completed when all finished flooring has been installed (or carpeting if used in place of finished flooring). If the building is occupied before all construction is finished, it is classified as completed at the time of occupancy. In privately-owned buildings with two or more housing units, all of the units in the buildings are counted as completed when 50 percent or more of the units are occupied or available for occupancy. Housing completions are estimated for all areas of the United States, regardless of whether permits are required.

Confidence Interval
– The sample estimate and an estimate of its standard error allow us to construct interval estimates with prescribed confidence that the interval includes the average result of all possible samples with the same size and design. To illustrate, if all possible samples were surveyed under essentially the same conditions, and estimates calculated from each sample, then:
  1. Approximately 68 percent of the intervals from one standard error below the estimate to one standard error above the estimate would include the average value of all possible samples.
  2. Approximately 90 percent of the intervals from 1.6 standard errors below the estimate to 1.6 standard errors above the estimate would include the average value of all possible samples.

Thus, for a particular sample, one can say with specified confidence that the average of all possible samples is included in the constructed interval.


Conventional Financing
– See "Financing, Types of."

Fee Simple
– See "Built for Sale."

FHA
– See "Financing, Types of."

Financing, Types of
– For houses sold, the type of financing is the type reported at the time the original sales agreement was signed or deposit accepted. Although changes in the type of financing do occur between the original contract signing and final settlement, these changes are not reflected in the data.

Conventional financing is a mortgage loan not guaranteed by any government agency, such as the Veteran's Administration (VA), the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), or the Rural Housing Service (RHS).

The FHA and VA type of financing data presented in these statistics tend to differ from those published directly by those agencies. For the actual number of FHA-insured and VA-guaranteed loans made for new houses at the time of final settlement, refer to the publications of the respective agencies. The data differ because of the difference in time periods between the signing of the original sales contract, the start of construction, and the insurance or guarantee of the mortgage, as well as the sampling variability.

Early in 1995, the Farmers Home Administration was reorganized. As part of this reorganization the RHS now handles the mortgage functions of the former Farmers Home Administration. Collection of RHS data has been discontinued and was last published in our 2007 statistics.


Floor Area
Single-family
– For these statistics, floor area is defined as all completely finished floor space, including space in basements and attics with finished walls, floors, and ceilings. This does not include a garage, carport, porch, unfinished attic or utility room, or any unfinished area of the basement.

In concept, measurement is based on exterior dimensions. Measurements are taken to the outside of exterior walls for detached houses. Builders sometimes provide the gross square footage (based on exterior dimensions) of a detached structure. This footage usually does not contain unfinished space. However, in townhouses, the gross square footage often includes the whole lower level, even though that area might include a garage and unfinished rooms. For purposes of these statistics, where the floor area for a new house was reported based on interior dimensions, the figure is converted to exterior dimensions by multiplying by a standard conversion factor of 1.08. A standard conversion factor of 1.04 is used to convert figures to exterior dimensions where it was not known whether the reported area was based on exterior or interior dimensions.

Multifamily
– Square footage for multifamily buildings is defined as all floor and associated living space. Floor space is defined as the floor area of all completely finished living space in the building, including the basement and attic, with finished walls, floors, and ceilings. This does not include a garage, carport, porch, unfinished attic or utility room, or any unfinished area of the basement.

Associated living space is defined as hallways, elevator space, lobbies, and any other indoor space used by the residents.

Square footage for mixed-use multifamily buildings is defined as the square footage of the residential portion of the structure only.


For Sale
– See "New Houses For Sale."

Housing Unit
– A housing unit, as defined for purposes of these data, is a house, an apartment, a group of rooms, or a single room intended for occupancy as separate living quarters. Separate living quarters are those in which the occupants live separately from any other individuals in the building and which have a direct access from the outside of the building or through a common hall.

In accordance with this definition, each apartment unit in an apartment building is counted as one housing unit. Housing units, as distinguished from "HUD-code" manufactured (mobile) homes, include conventional "site-built" units, prefabricated, panelized, sectional, and modular units.

Housing unit statistics also exclude group quarters (such as dormitories and rooming houses), transient accommodations (such as transient hotels, motels, and tourist courts), moved or relocated buildings, and housing units created in an existing residential or nonresidential structure.

Units in assisted living facilities are considered to be housing units, however, units in nursing homes are not considered to be housing units.


Median
– The median is equal to the middle point value of all values reported for a characteristic. For example, the median sales price of new one-family houses sold is the middle point of all sales prices reported; that is, the point is chosen so that half the houses were sold with a sales price below the middle point and half with a sales price above this middle point. A full description of the methodology used for medians can be found at http://www.census.gov/const/med_sumt.pdf.

Median Months For Sale
– The median number of months for sale is the median number of months from the month of completion to the current month. Houses sold prior to completion are excluded from the statistics for the median number of months for sale. A full description of the methodology used for medians can be found at http://www.census.gov/const/med_sumt.pdf.

Months' Supply of New Houses for Sale
– The months' supply is the ratio of houses for sale to houses sold. This statistic provides an indication of the size of the for-sale inventory in relation to the number of houses currently being sold. The months' supply indicates how long the current for-sale inventory would last given the current sales rate if no additional new houses were built.

Multifamily Housing
– Residential buildings containing units built one on top of another and those built side-by-side which do not have a ground-to-roof wall and/or have common facilities (i.e., attic, basement, heating plant, plumbing, etc.)

New Houses for Sale
– A house is considered to be for sale when it is being built to be sold and a permit to build has been issued (in permit-issuing places) or work has begun on the footings or foundation (in nonpermit areas) and a sales contract has not been signed nor a deposit accepted.

New Houses Sold
– A house is considered sold when either a sales contract has been signed or a deposit accepted. Included in these estimates are houses for which a sales contract is signed or deposit accepted before construction has actually started; for instance, houses sold from a model or from plans before any work has started on the footings or foundations. Thus, the estimates include houses sold while under any stage of construction, even those sold before the building permit has been issued. The survey does not follow through to the completion ("closing") of the sales transaction, so even if the initial transaction is not finalized, the house is still considered sold.

New Residential Sales
– New residential sales data only include new single-family residential structures. Sales of multifamily units are excluded from these statistics. To be included in the sales estimates, the sales transaction must intend to include both the house and the land. The sale of a house may take place at any stage of construction, even before the building permit is issued. Excluded from these estimates are houses built for rent, houses built by the owner, and houses built by a general contractor on the owner's land.

Not Started
– See "Authorized, Not Started."

Not Seasonally Adjusted
– Data labeled "Not Seasonally Adjusted" refers to the fact that the data are not adjusted for seasonality using seasonal adjustment and not shown at an annual rate.

Detailed information on seasonal adjustment can be found at: http://www.census.gov/srd/www/x12a/


One-Unit
– See "Single-Family House."

Privately-Owned
– Structures not owned by any federal, state, or local government. Units in structures built by private developers with partial public subsidies or which are for sale upon completion to local public housing authorities under the HUD "Turnkey" program are all classified as private housing.

Public Housing
– Public housing is a residential building owned by a federal, state or local agency.

Units in structures built by private developers with partial public subsidies or which are for sale upon completion to local public housing authorities under the HUD "Turnkey" program are all classified as private housing.


Region
– The standard Census geographic regions are used in these statistics. States contained in each region are as follows:

Northeast Midwest South West
Connecticut Illinois Alabama Alaska
Maine Indiana Arkansas Arizona
Massachusetts Iowa Delaware California
New Hampshire Kansas District of Columbia Colorado
New Jersey Michigan Florida Hawaii
New York Minnesota Georgia Idaho
Pennsylvania Missouri Kentucky Montana
Rhode Island Nebraska Louisiana Nevada
Vermont North Dakota Maryland New Mexico
  Ohio Mississippi Oregon
  South Dakota North Carolina Utah
  Wisconsin Oklahoma Washington
    South Carolina Wyoming
    Tennessee  
    Texas  
    Virginia  
    West Virginia  

A map of the regions can be found at: http://www.census.gov/geo/www/us_regdiv.pdf.


Relative Standard Error (RSE)
– The estimated standard error expressed as a percent of the estimated total or proportion, that is, the estimated standard error times 100 divided by the estimate. This is also called coefficient of variation (CV).

Residential Building
– A residential building is a building consisting primarily of housing units. In a new building combining residential and nonresidential floor areas, every effort is made to include the residential units in these statistics, even if the primary function of the entire building is for nonresidential purposes.

Rural Housing Service
– See "Financing, Types of."

Sale Date
– Date when a deposit was made or a sales agreement was signed. If a builder is in the middle of negotiations for a sale or has a verbal agreement with a purchaser, the house is not considered to be sold. A deposit can be considered good faith money, earnest money, or bond money. A deposit to reserve a lot is not considered a deposit on the house.

For time-share houses, the structure is considered sold when a deposit is taken or an agreement is signed for the first share of time.

Once a sale date is reported, the sale date is not requested again, so any canceled sales will not change this reported initial sale date.


Sales Price
– The sales price is the price agreed upon between purchaser and seller (and reported by the latter) at the time the first sales contract is signed or deposit made. It includes the price of the improved lot. Generally, the sales price does not reflect subsequent price changes resulting from change orders or from any other factors affecting the price of the house. Furthermore, the sales price does not include the cost of any extras or options paid for in cash by the purchaser or otherwise not included in the original sales price reported.

Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate
– Seasonal adjustment is the process of estimating and removing seasonal effects from a time series to better reveal certain non-seasonal features such as underlying trends and business cycles. Seasonal adjustment procedures estimate effects that occur in the same calendar month with similar magnitude and direction from year to year. In series whose seasonal effects come primarily from weather, the seasonal factors are estimates of average weather effects for each month. Seasonal adjustment does not account for abnormal weather conditions or for year-to-year changes in weather. Seasonal factors are estimates based on present and past experience. Future data may show a different pattern.

Most of the seasonally adjusted series are shown as seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR). The seasonally adjusted annual rate is the seasonally adjusted monthly value multiplied by 12. The benefit of the annual rate is that not only can one monthly estimate be compared with another; monthly data can also be compared with an annual total. The seasonally adjusted annual rate is neither a forecast nor a projection; rather it is a description of the rate of building permits, housing starts, housing completions, or new home sales in the particular month for which they are calculated.

Data labeled "Not Seasonally Adjusted" refers to the fact that the data are not adjusted for seasonality using seasonal adjustment and not shown at an annual rate.

Detailed information on seasonal adjustment can be found at: http://www.census.gov/srd/www/x12a/


Single-Family House
– The single-family statistics include fully detached, semidetached "semiattached, side-by-side), row houses, and townhouses. In the case of attached units, each must be separated from the adjacent unit by a ground-to-roof wall in order to be classified as a single-family structure. Also, these units must not share heating/air-conditioning systems or utilities, such as water supply, power supply, or sewage disposal lines.

Units built one on top of another and those built side-by-side that do not have a ground-to-roof wall and/or have common facilities (i.e., attic, basement, heating plant, plumbing, etc.) are not included in the single-family statistics.


Speculatively-built Houses
– See "Built for Sale."

Stages of Construction
– New single-family homes sold and for sale are shown by three stages of construction:
  1. Not started - Permit has been issued, but ground has not yet been broken. (See "Authorized, Not Started.")
  2. Under construction - Ground is broken, but unit is not yet complete. (See "Under Construction.")
  3. Completed - A house is defined as completed when all finished flooring has been installed (or carpeting if used in place of finished flooring.) (See "Completed Housing.")

Standard Error
– Measure of the variation among the estimates from all possible samples; measure of the precision with which an estimate from a particular sample approximates the average results of all possible samples; square root of the sampling variance.

Timeshare
– A timeshare is a form of ownership or right to the use of a property. These can be either single-family or multifamily structures.

Turnkey Housing
– Units in structures built by private developers with partial public subsidies or that are for sale upon completion to local public housing authorities.

Under Construction
– Estimates of housing units started, but not yet completed, are shown in the "under construction" data series. Housing units under construction are estimated for all areas of the United States, regardless of whether permits are required.

VA Financing
– See "Financing, Types of."


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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | New Residential Sales | (301) 763-5160 |  Last Revised: August 31, 2012