Sales of new single-family houses in January 2015 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 481,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 0.2 percent below the revised December rate of 482,000, but is 5.3 percent above the January 2014 estimate of 457,000.

January’s strength is centered in what is by far the largest region, the South, where sales rose 2.2 percent. Sales slipped 0.8 percent in the West which is second, and a very distant second, in size to the South.

Price concessions may have helped sales as the median fell 2.6 percent to $294,000. The dip is minor and the year-on-year median is still up significantly at plus 9.1 percent, but it does underscore price weakness in Monday’s existing home sales report.

Inventory has been on the thin side for the last 5 years but, at 218,000 units now on the market, is the highest since March 2010. But relative to sales, inventory still looks thin at 5.4 months which should encourage builders to step up activity.