Boston Area Home Sales Numbers: Victim of Winter?

Boston area home sales have fallen to their slowest pace in nine months, with sales of existing homes tumbling 4.9 percent last month.

Relatively low mortgage rates and steady job growth have not yet spurred the kind of activity from buyers or sellers, raising the possibility of either a spring rush, or another year of slack Boston area home sales.

Boston area home sales have not picked up so far in 2015 like they were expected to

Nationwide, few properties are being listed for sale, would-be-buyers are holding off, and the harsh winter weather is taking its toll on attempts to hold open houses.

Boston Area Home Sales Expectations Not Happening

Weaker Boston area home sales in 2014 had set up expectations of a strong rebound in 2015, but so far, that resurgence has yet to appear. Even the addition of more new jobs over the past three months has failed to make much of an impact on overall Boston area home sales.

Builders haven’t started ramping up any new construction either. Confidence among builders in the market for single-family homes in February fell two points to a level of 55 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released recently. Any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good rather than poor.

Average mortgage rates have held well below 4 percent for weeks, which you would think bodes well for a rejuvenated housing market in the spring. But only time will tell.

Boston area home sales are not the only area where numbers are down. Sales slid in all four major geographical regions of the country last month: dropping 6 percent in the Northeast, 2.7 percent in the Midwest, 4.6 percent in the South and 7.1 percent in the West.

In the meantime, you can get more information about news that may affect the Boston area home sale market in our section on Boston area Real Estate to your right under Boston area Real Estate Categories.

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Existing Boston Area Home Sales Increased in December

According to figures from the National Association of Realtors, existing Boston area home sales increased in December, reaching an annual pace nationally of more than 5 million sales for the sixth time in seven months. Median home prices for last year reached their highest level since 2007 but the total number of sales dropped 3.1% compared to the previous year.

Existing Boston area home sales ended the year strong after a sluggish start.

The total number of existing Boston area home sales includes completed transactions for condominiums, co-ops, townhomes and single-family homes. Nationwide, this increased 2.4% to reach a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million last month compared to 4.92 million in November. When compared to a year earlier, sales for last month were 3.5% higher.

In total, there were 4.95 million sales for 2014 which is 3.1% less compared to 2013. The national median home price for existing homes was $208,500, the highest figure seen since 2007 when it reached $219,000. This figure is 5.8% higher than 2013 when the median price was $197,100.

Boston Area Home Sales Close Strong for the Year

Boston area home sales picked up in December, closing out a year that began sluggishly but which showed signs of improvement during the second half. Boston area home sales began to improve over last summer as inventory levels increased, prices moderated and economic growth began to accelerate. According to real estate experts, sales were much better during the second half of last year, up by 8% compared to the first six months of the year.

We’ll keep you informed on Boston area home sales as we move through 2015. In the meantime, you can get more information about news that may affect Boston area home sales in our section on Boston Real Estate News to your right under Boston Real Estate Categories.

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Boston Area Home Sales Continue Strong Uptick

More people closed on a Boston area home or condo last month, with sales of existing Boston area homes rising to the highest level since September 2013.

Boston area home sales continue to see stronger numbersBoston Area Home Sales Mirror National Numbers

The same trend that Boston area home sales are seeing holds true across most of the rest of the country as well. The National Association of Realtors says existing home sales rose 1.5 percent to an annual pace of 5.26 million. Sales were also higher than year-ago levels for the first time in a year.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun says, “Sales activity reached the highest annual pace of the year as buyers continue to be encouraged by interest rates at lows not seen since last summer, improving levels of inventory and stabilizing price growth.”

The median price of an existing home that sold nationwide was up 5.5 percent from a year ago, the 32nd consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.

Foreclosure and short sales were down 9 percent from a year ago. Just 7 percent of all October sales were foreclosures and just 2 percent were short sales. Condo and co-op sales posted the biggest monthly gains, up 3.3 percent from September.

The median price for an existing home in October was $208,300, 5.5 percent higher than it was a year ago.

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Existing Boston Area Home Sales Hit One Year High

Previously owned Boston area home sales climbed in September to the highest level in a year, pointing to growing confidence in the U.S. economy as employment firms.

Nationwide, purchases advanced 2.4 percent to a 5.17 million annual rate. Demand was up 1.9 percent compared with the same month last year before adjusting for seasonal patterns.

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Of all Boston area home sales, cash transactions accounted for about 24 percent, down from 33 percent 12 months earlier, the report showed. Investors, 63 percent of whom paid cash, represented 14 percent of the market last month, down from 19 percent in September 2013.

Distressed sales, comprised of foreclosures and short sales, in which the lender agrees to take less than the balance of the mortgage, made up 10 percent of the total.

“The traditional Boston area home buyer — the person who takes out a mortgage loan to buy a Boston area home — seems to be growing in strength over the past year and we expect that to continue,” according to Robert Stein, deputy chief economist at First Trust Portfolios LP in Wheaton, Illinois, who is among the best forecasters of existing home sales over the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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Surge in Boston Area Home Sales Predicted

An unusual surge in Boston area home sales is predicted this fall due to a slowdown in home price growth and a shift in pricing power from sellers to one that more closely aligns with buyers’ expectations. Home buyers who have been willing to wait for better deals are starting to be rewarded for their patience.

The number of Boston area home sales above list price in July was down nearly 7 percent from a year ago. These numbers would indicate that sellers are starting to realize that it’s not really a seller’s market any more.

A surge in Boston area home sales is predicted this fall due to a slowdown in home price growth and a shift in pricing power from sellers

Boston Area Home Sales Vary By Area

Some areas have seen more moderate price growth year-over-year but have seen their “for sale” inventories also rise.

Areas with the fewest price drops tended to have smaller increases in median home prices and for-sale inventories.

Redfin analysts are predicting a surge in home sales in September and October. “We continue to see strong buyer demand as we head into fall,” according to Redfin’s housing report, which shows the number of tours and offers picking up from July and into August.

“The buyer fatigue from competing against multiple offers, bidding wars. and tight inventory is diminishing. Additionally, the widespread increase in price drops is likely to give buyers even more confidence that they have regained some of the bargaining power lost last year.”

You can read the full housing market report here.

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