April’s new home sales were up 3.3 percent from March to a seasonally adjusted rate of 343,000, representing growth of nearly 10 percent from a year ago, according to monthly data released by the Census Bureau and HUD.

With the exception of the revised February increase, April’s growth was the most significant since the conclusion of the home buyer tax credit in spring 2010, writes NAHB chief economist David Crowe in the association’s Eye on Housing blog. Regionally, a 10.6 percent drop in Southern home sales was offset by a collective 23 percent gain among sales in the Northeast, Midwest, and West markets, which combined account for a smaller market than the South, says Crowe. On the whole, home sales prices averaged $282,600 for the month, with 146,000 new homes for sale at the end of April.

Building permits for private construction nationwide during April were down 7 percent from March, but up by nearly one-quarter from a year ago to total 715,000 units. Of this, two-thirds were single-unit structures. Regionally, single-family units accounted for 54 percent of the Northeast’s 81,000 permits; 66.7 percent of 114,000 permits issued in the Midwest; 69 percent of the 359,000 Southern permits; and 67 percent of the West region’s 161,000 building permits.

Total private residential construction spending grew 2.8 percent in April from March and saw a 7.1 percent gain from a year ago. Of that market, single-family construction grew 2 percent from March and 13 percent from a year ago. Yet a 31.4 percent jump in private residential construction spending for the multifamily sector over April 2011 and a 4.1 percent increase from March is a reminder of the burgeoning segment’s role in the housing market’s recovery. According to NAHB senior economist Brian Lego, an uptick in newly formed households opting to rent, complemented by the nearly decade-low rental vacancy rate and an absorption rate at its highest since 2005, is driving this growth.