Friday, November 2, 2012

THE ECONOMY: Mass. home sales rise 8% in Sept.

Sales of single-family homes and condominiums kept climbing in Massachusetts last month as more buyers decided to take advantage of historically low interest rates, ­according to numbers released Thursday.

There were 3,791 single-family homes sold in September, an 8 percent increase compared with the same month last year, according to Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks local real estate. Between January and September, single-family home sales rose nearly 22 percent compared with the same period in 2011.

The condo market fared even better, with 1,609 units sold in September, a 23 percent increase compared with the same month in 2011. Year-to-date, there have been 14,641 condo sales, 27.5 percent more than during the first three quarters of last year, Warren Group said.

“Home sales have reached the highest level in nine quarters, a strong sign that consumers have ­regained some confidence in the economy and are making home purchases with more enthusiasm,’’ said ­Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of Warren Group.

But median home prices did not improve with sales. The median price for single-family homes fell to $277,000, a 4.5 percent drop ­compared with September 2011. The median price between January and September fell 1.6 percent to $290,000, meaning half of the homes sold at a higher price than $290,000 and half sold for less.

The median price for condos was essentially flat in September, remaining at $275,450, just 0.16 percent off compared with September 2011, according to Warren Group. Between January and September, the median condo price rose to $279,000, 1.5 percent higher than
last year.

John Ranco, a senior sales associate at Hammond Residential Real Estate in Boston’s South End, said properties at all price levels are selling.

In its latest report, the S&P/Case-Shiller home prices index, which measures repeat home sales, showed Boston-­area home prices increasing between April and July.

“Generally, you are looking at staircase effect on pricing,’’ Ranco said. “They are all generally pointing upward.”

Still, prices last month lagged despite increased competition caused by a continued drop in the number of homes for sale. Inventory of single-family homes fell 21 percent in September compared with the same month last year, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which also released data Thursday. The number of condos on the market also fell by 30.5 percent in September, compared with the year before, the association said.

Some local housing specialists are raising the possibility of a slowdown in sales over the next few months. Alan ­Clayton-Matthews, an economist at Northeastern University, said that an increase in the state jobless rate and the struggling economy could put a damper on the market.

Ranco said some potential buyers and sellers are likely waiting out the presidential election to see whether it has an effect on the economy.

“We are noticing a little bit of a breather in the market,’’ he said.

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