EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 25, 2013

June marks big month for Mass. housing market

By Brian Messenger
bmessenger@eagletribune.com

---- — A three-bedroom Cape on Newport Street in Methuen hit the open market last week for $199,900. This week, its owners are already negotiating with a potential buyer after the offers came rolling in.

Real estate professionals in Massachusetts are reporting that June was the best month for single-family home sales in three years. Data for the first six months of 2013 also shows steadily-rising median sale prices — including increases of 10 percent or more in Andover, Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen compared to the same period last year.

“Good signs — steady buyer activity, prices steadily on the increase,” said Matt McLennan, a real estate broker with Century 21 in Methuen. “I think the confidence is there that the market is rebounding.”

There were signs earlier this year of a potential housing turnaround. McLennan said a “very active February and March” has translated into plenty of closings in May and June. For McLennan, it’s been his busiest summer in seven years.

According to The Warren Group, a Boston-based real estate publishing company, in June there were 5,591 single-family home sales across the state. That’s the most sales in one month since June 2010, when 5,662 were sold.

In June 2012, 5,535 single-family homes were sold in Massachusetts.

Statewide home sales in April, May and June totaled 13,915, good for a 2 percent increase from the second quarter of 2012. Year-to-date homes sales in 2013, or from January to June, came in at 21,659, marking a more modest .12 percent increase from the 21,633 sold over the first six months of 2012, according to the data, which was released this week.

“The housing market continues to boom locally, and nationally,” said The Warren Group CEO Timothy M. Warren Jr. in a prepared statement. “As long as mortgage rates and home prices don’t spike too high, we’ll see a very strong recovery year for the market in 2013.”

The median sale price for single-family homes rose for the ninth consecutive month in June to $350,000. That’s the highest since August 2007, and a nearly 9 percent increase from the $321,800 median sale price in June 2012.

The median sale price from January to June also rose to $315,000. That’s 12 percent higher than the $281,000 median sale price from the first six months of last year. Locally, cities and towns saw similar increases.

Statewide condominium sales totalled 8,750 over the first six months of 2013, up 2 percent from last year. The median condo sale price from January to June is $284,000, up 3 percent from 2012.

With housing activity picking up, McLennan said some buyers are feeling pressure to “pull the trigger” before interest rates rise any higher. Both McLennan and local Realtor Kevin Vitali pointed to low inventory as a reason why prices are rising.

Generally speaking, Vitali said it’s the best time in five or six years to sell a home. And while first-time homebuyers have been active in recent years, Vitali said he is also seeing more and more sales of higher-priced homes — likely indicating older or more experienced buyers and sellers are getting involved in the market again.

“The sales that are closing are much higher than they have been,” said Vitali, who sells homes from Chelmsford to Newburyport with Merrimack Valley Real Estate.

Overall, Vitali said he’s encouraged by the latest industry figures. But he said other economic factors like unemployment and fuel prices must hold steady or improve for the momentum to continue.

“While the news is good, I would say I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Vitali. “I think the economy is still fragile. As long as we’re heading in the right direction, we’ll be good.”

January to June Single-Family Home Sales & Prices YEAR-TO-DATE SALES City/Town 2012 2013 % Change Andover 152 147 -3 Boxford 38 56 47 Georgetown 40 43 7.5 Groveland 28 23 -18 Haverhill 162 155 -4 Lawrence 81 76 -6 Methuen 168 160 -5 N. Andover 108 121 12 N. Reading 70 76 9 :Year-to-date Median Sale Prices City/Town 2012 2013 % change Andover $490,500 $545,000 11 Boxford $450,000 $544,450 21 Georgetown $292,130 $355,000 22 Groveland $296,225 $340,000 15 Haverhill $220,977 $253,000 15 Lawrence $151,000 $172,750 14 Methuen $220,000 $245,000 11 N. Andover $425,750 $438,000 3 N. Reading $396,250 $433,500 9 (Source: The Warren Group)