Saturday, May 1, 2010

BUYING & SELLING: Massachusetts home prices continue to rise

The median selling price for a single-family home in Massachusetts rose for the fifth straight month in March, and the inventory of Bay State homes for sales has increased for the first time since March 2008, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors said today.

In a separate report, the Warren Group, a Boston firm that tracks local real estate activity, noted that March sales of single-family homes in Massachusetts rose 28 percent and that Massachusetts condo sales are up 33 percent.

"We're seeing a significant turnaround in the local housing market," Warren Group chief executive Timothy M. Warren Jr. said in a statement.

At first glance, the assessments of where the local housing market stands by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors and the Warren Group seem more upbeat than a report issued yesterday called the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. The reports uses different methodologies and examine different time frames. (To read a report on the latest Case-Shiller data in today's Globe, which is headlined, "Housing data mixed, but called good," please click here.)

The Warren Group and the association looked at a broad universe of Massachusetts home sales in March. Case-Shiller, in contrast, focused on repeat home sales from February. Some current year-to-year comparisons can look good partly because 2009 numbers were so low.

In any event, the Warren Group said that single-family home sales increased 27.6 percent to 3,162 in March from 2,477 in March 2009. The median price for single-family homes sold in March rose 7.8 percent to $275,000 from $255,000 a year earlier.

On the condo front, sales of Massachusetts condos soared 33.4 percent to 1,515 from 1,136 in March 2009, the Warren Group said, and the median price for condos sold in March was $249,000, up 8.6 percent from $229,250 in March 2009.

As for the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, its report found that the median selling price for single-family homes in March was $280,000 an increase of 9.8 percent compared to $255,000 in March 2009, the fifth straight month of year-over-year gains. On a month-to-month basis, the March median selling price was up 3.0 percent from $271,900 in February 2010.

"There were 2,890 detached single-family homes sold this March, a 29.3 percent increase from the 2,235 homes sold the same time last year," the association said in a press release. "On a month-to-month basis, home sales were up 53.5 percent from 1,883 homes sold this past February. This is the largest March year-over-year increase since MAR has been tracking monthly data."

Condo sales were also strong, according to the association. Condominium median selling prices in March were up 14.0 percent from $224,500 in 2009 to $256,000 in March 2010. This is the fourth straight month of year-over-year gains. On a month-to-month basis, the median selling price of a condominium was up 6.4 percent from a February 2010 median of $240,500, the association said.

The inventory of single-family homes for sale in Massachusetts as of March 31 was up 2 percent from March 2009, the association said, and the inventory of condos is about flat with last year.

"Seeing the inventory of homes for sale go up is a good sign and a necessary step if the market is to truly stabilize,” association president Kevin Sears said in a statement.

Low interest rates, lower housing prices, an improving economy, and a federal tax credit for some housing purchases have given the housing market a bit of a lift. That tax credit, though, is set to expire.

“With the opportunity to take advantage of the tax credit expiring in two days and those sales closing on or before June 30, we’ll get a real sense of where the market is in the summer and early fall,” Sears said.

Boston Globe Staff April 28, 2010

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