U.S. home builder sentiment held steady at a low level in November, according to a survey taken before the government extended a popular tax credit for first-time buyers.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index was unchanged at 17 for November, below market expectations for a reading of 19. October's index was previously reported at 18.

A reading above 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

The survey, released on Tuesday, was conducted before the government extended and expanded the popular $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, which has been widely credited with pulling the housing market from a three-year slump.

Now that Congress has done its job by both extending the tax credit into next year and expanding eligibility for it among potential buyers, we are very hopeful that this will have the intended stimulative effect on sales activity going forward, said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson.

The housing market index measures builders' confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes.

The collapse of the domestic housing market and the global credit crisis that followed contributed to the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s.

The economy resumed growth in the third quarter, with residential investment contributing to gross domestic product for the first time since 2005.

The NAHB survey showed the current sales conditions gauge for single-family home sales was also unchanged at 17 in November, but the sales expectations measure for the next six months rose two points to 28. The traffic of prospective buyers index was flat at 13.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Neil Stempleman)