EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 26, 2012

N.H. housing sales, prices see increase

By Jo-Anne MacKenzie jmackenzie@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Things are looking up in the state housing market both in the number of sales and in the median price.

That’s according to the N.H. Association of Realtors, which released its residential sales report for September yesterday.

The median sales price for a single-family home in September was $199,00, which is a 2.3 percent increase from a year ago.

In Rockingham County, the median sales price through September was $258,000, up 1 percent over a year ago, when it was $255,000. For September, the median sales price of $251,000 in the county represents a 5 percent increase over September 2011, when it was $239,000.

There were 275 units sold in the county last month, up 8.7 percent over a year ago, when 253 units were sold. For the year thus far, 2,247 units were sold in the county through Sept. 30, up more than 15 percent over the same time last year when $1,951 units had been sold.

Statewide, that number looks even better, with unit sales to date up 19.1 percent.

Nancy Mosher, a Realtor with Berge’s Real Estate in Salem, is cautiously optimistic.

“Hopefully, we’ve hit the bottom,” she said yesterday. “You are having multiple people looking at properties and that’s a change over a year ago. ... There are people out there.”

Mosher said new construction is picking up, too.

The increase in the median sales price is the first since December 2010, according to NHAR officials, but they said that earlier uptick was due to the homebuyer tax credit. This time, the increase “more likely represents a substantive change,” according to NHAR president John Rice of Tate & Foss Sotheby’s International Realty in Rye.

“This time, we’re dealing with more of a natural supply and demand dynamic,” he said in a written statement. “When sales numbers steadily increase and inventory decreases, market forces are typically going to push prices up, and that’s what we’re witnessing here.”

Buyers Mosher has seen over the past two years have been mostly first-time buyers or investors.

But that, too, may be changing.

“I am seeing people who have finally sold their house and can close on something else in 30 days — and that wasn’t happening two years ago,” she said.

If interest rates stay down and prices go up some more, Mosher said, she expects to see more people who are under water on their current home be able to sell and get into something more affordable.

Condominium sales are up, too, 17.7 percent higher through September than they were a year ago, including a hefty 34 percent increase in Rockingham County, where 84 units were sold last month.

But the median sale price is down statewide year to date, dropping 2 percent from $153,000 to $150,000. In the county, that year-to-date number is a little better, with the average sale price standing at $179,000, just 0.6 percent off last year at this point when it was $180,000.

“I do think there’s a pent-up demand,” Mosher said, adding the election results will play a role in the future. “If people feel good about where the economy is going and their jobs, sales should increase.”