Sales of new single-family homes dropped by less than 1 percent in January from an upwardly revised annual pace of 321,000, the U.S. government reported Friday.

Although a decline, the figures were good news, said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, and a builder from Gainesville, Fla.

"Outside of the upwardly revised December number, this is actually the best sales pace we've seen since April of 2010, when the home buyer tax credit was in effect," Rutenberg said. "Moreover, many recent indicators, from our builder confidence surveys to housing starts and permits data and the expanding list of improving local markets, have provided evidence that consumers are becoming more confident about making a home purchase."

The sales pace was the fastest since April 2010.

"New-home sales this January were up 3.5 percent from the same time last year, and up one percent from the fourth quarter average for 2011," added NAHB chief economist David Crowe. "This is indicative of the incremental, steady progress that the market is making toward recovery in conjunction with modest economic and job growth. Increasingly, potential buyers are feeling better about their financial situation and their ability to buy a home, but the challenges posed by tight credit conditions and appraisal issues continue to slow that process."