Of the three components making up the index, current sales conditions fell one point to 51, still the only component solidly in the positive. Sales expectations over the next six months rose one point to 50, but buyer traffic remained the weakest, falling four points to 32.
(Read More: Foreclosures Fall Due to New Laws)
Regionally the Northeast saw improvements in builder sentiment, as did the West, but the Midwest and South both slipped, down two points each. The Northeast is seeing gains in construction due to the rebuilding effort following Superstorm Sandy. That was apparent in another index released Monday gauging home remodeling. The Buildfax remodeling index showed seasonally adjusted annual rates of remodeling in the Northeast at 636,000 in December of 2012 — up 39 percent from November and up 37 percent from a year ago.
"The last time the Northeast broke 600,000 estimated residential remodels was five years ago," wrote BuildFax's Joe Emison in a release. "Unfortunately, the rest of the country saw both month-over-month and year-over-year declines in residential remodeling activity."