Mass. home sales, prices dropped last month
Massachusetts single-family housing sales went into a deep freeze in February with the worst numbers in more than 20 years, according to data released today.
Single family home sales fell 15.7 percent and condominium sales dropped 18 percent in February compared with the same month last year, according to the Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks local real estate.
Median prices also declined last month, with single family homes sinking to $255,000, a 5.5 percent drop compared with February 2010. Condominium prices also dropped to $225,000, a 4 percent drop compared with last year, according to the Warren Group.
Housing industry specialists attributed the slowdown partly to the harsh winter weather, which kept prospective homebuyers at home and made sellers hesitant to put their properties on the market. Also, during last February the housing market was propped up by the now expired federal homebuyers tax credit.
"While only remnants remain of the multiple feet of snow we had in December and January, the impact on home sales was evident in February,'' said Laurie Cadigan, president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.
Eric Belsky, managing director of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, said many people are still reluctant to purchase a home, scared off by the sluggish economy, high oil prices, and worldwide turmoil. In the most expensive Boston-area communities, he said, prospective buyers also are still taken aback by high prices.
"People don't jump into deflationary markets,'' Belsky said. "There's not been a great deal of job growth."
For those people out looking to buy a home, the choices remain limited. Inventory of homes for sale sank in February -- 3 percent for single family homes and 11 percent for condominiums compared with the same month last year, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which also released data today.
Adding to evidence that the housing market has not yet rebounded, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices released data today showing that home values in 20 major metropolitan areas dropped 3.1 percent in January compared with the same time last year. Boston fared slightly better than the average -- dropping 0.6 percent compared with January, 2010. The Case-Shiller index measures repeat home sales and is considered by many in the industry to be the best measure of housing values.
David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Standard & Poor's index committee, said the new numbers confirm analysts concerns that a market rebound won't take place soon.
"None of the statistics are indicating any form of sustained recovery,'' Blitzer said. "At most, we have seen all the statistics bounce along their troughs; at worst, the feared double-dip recession may be materializing."