By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — The local residential real estate market is warming at a rapid pace, but tight inventory is keeping it from catching fire, industry watchers and local agents said.
A study of local sales by the city assessor’s office found the median price for a single-family home in Haverhill jumped by 18 percent, from $216,000 to $254,000, in the first seven months this year compared to the first seven months last year.
Residential sales overall, including single-family homes, multifamily homes and condominiums, are up 25 percent for the median property over the same period. Those values increased from $180,000 to $225,000, according to the study.
Haverhill’s real estate gains compare favorably to its neighbors and better than most.
In the all residential sales values category, Haverhill’s 25 percent jump is at the top. Median residential values grew by 19 percent in Newburyport, by 21 percent in Amesbury and by 23 percent in Lawrence, according to the Haverhill study.
Newburyport set the pace in the single-family home category, with the price of the median property jumping by 34 percent, from $365,000 to 490,000, according to Haverhill’s seven-month study of real estate sales. Amesbury saw those values grow by 22 percent from $244,000 to $298,000. The median price of a single-family home in Lawrence rose by 19 percent, the study showed.
The median price of a single-family home rose by 12 percent in Methuen, 9 percent in Andover and 7 percent in North Andover, according to the Haverhill study.
Median residential real estate values overall, including all types of housing, grew by 10 percent in Methuen, 4 percent in Andover and 2 percent in North Andover, the study showed.
Industry watchers and local real estate agents told a similar story.
Data tracked by the Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesmen, shows the price of a single-family home in Haverhill increased by 32 percent, from $196,500 to $259,000, in the last year.
The trade group said tight inventory has restrained real estate sales across Massachusetts.
“What’s behind the surge in values in Haverhill is the same thing that’s behind the surge in values all over the state: Lack of inventory to meet the demands of home buyers,” said Richard Rosa of Buyers Brokers Only, a Haverhill real estate firm. “Haverhill has the added advantage of being very affordable compared to surrounding towns.”
Rosa said home sales in Haverhill increased by 12 percent to 37 sales in July, up from 33 homes sales in July 2012. The real estate market began an uptick last year, and much of the inventory that was out there got bought up quickly, Rosa said.
According to the Haverhill assessor’s study, there were 14 fewer real estate sales in the first seven months this year compared to that span last year — 435 to 421 — even as the market has improved.
Rosa speculated many potential sellers might be waiting for the market to improve further before listing their homes. Others who realize there’s low inventory, Rosa said, might be worried about finding a new home once they sell the one they currently own.
“Six or seven years ago home values were so high that some people might be waiting for their home to gain all that value back,” he said of another possible factor for the lack of properties on the market.
Rosa expects the upward trend in values to continue, but he added that rising interest rates might temper that growth somewhat. In May, for instance, interest rates on a 20 year real estate loan were between 3.5 and 3.75, Rosa said. In just a few months, they have risen to between 4.5 and 4.75, he said.
“The good news is that if someone wants to sell their house, it’s a good time to sell,” Rosa said. “And that home values are finally going up after a long period of declines.”
Mayor James Fiorentini said the new real estate figures are great news and show Haverhill is moving in the right direction.
“I’ve always thought Haverhill was undervalued and that people don’t realize how good we are,” he said. “These numbers show the word is getting out there.”
Fiorentini said he hopes the real estate uptick will help attract young home buyers to the city. He cautioned, however, that people shouldn’t get overconfident about a seven-month study.
“It’s not long a long enough time to get too confident,” the mayor said. “But it’s a great trend and we hope it continues.”