WASHINGTON - Sales of new single-family houses dipped 0.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 373,000 in August, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

The decline in the sales pace followed a revised July rate of 374,000, originally reported as 372,000. The July rate marked the highest since April 2010's rate of 422,000.

The August rate was below the median annual rate of 380,000 projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, but was 27.7% above the August 2011 estimate of 292,000.

New home sales rose 20% to 36,000 from 30,000 in the Northeast, and 1.8% to 56,000 from 55,000 in the Midwest. Sales ticked slightly up in the West, rising 0.9% to 107,000 from 106,000. A 4.9% decrease in the South offset those regional increases, as new home sales in that part of the country fell to 174,000 from 183,000.

The median sales price of new houses jumped 11.2% to $256,900 in August, from the revised July median price of $231,100.

On a year-over-year basis, the median price rose 17% from $219,600 in August 2011.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale at the end of July was 141,000, unchanged from the previous month. That represents a supply of 4.5 months at the current sales rate. 

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