Home sales in Massachusetts keep increasing, while price declines are moderating
The number of home sales in Massachusetts accelerated last month as more buyers took advantage of low interest rates and discounted prices.
Single-family home sales increased by nearly 35 percent in May compared with the same period last year, marking the highest total in one month since June 2010, according to the Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks local real estate.
Condominium sales fared even better, increasing by more than 50 percent in May compared with the same month in 2011, the Warren Group said.
“We continue to make solid progress toward a real estate market recovery,” said Trisha McCarthy, a broker at Keller Williams Realty in Newburyport and president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.
But improved sales volume is still not translating into higher prices for single-family homes, the Warren Group found. The median cost fell to $289,950 last month, about 3 percent off from May 2011. Median prices for condominiums, however, rose to $290,000, nearly 1 percent higher than during the same period last year.
Cory S. Hopkins, editorial director of the Warren Group, said that it is unusual for median prices for condominiums to exceed the value of single family homes. He attributed it to the fact that more lower priced houses are selling, partly because increased foreclosure activity is depressing overall prices for single family homes.
“The spring market has been especially strong,’’ Hopkins said, adding that expects sales volume to remain robust during the summer.
The Greater Boston Association of Realtors, which also released data Tuesday, had a slightly different take on the May real estate market than the Warren Group. The trade group reported that the median single-family home values in the state’s metropolitan area actually rose slightly to $465,000 last month -- 1.3 percent increase compared with the same month last year. Condominium prices also increased to $381,000, 4.4 percent higher than last May.
John Dulczewski, executive director of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors, said he is encouraged by increased activity because it isn’t being pushed by a federal stimulus such as the 2010 homebuyers tax credit. The challenge, he said, is that there aren’t enough homes on the market in Massachusetts.
“There are still pockets of sellers that are waiting until prices recover more fully,’’ Dulczewski said.
According to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, inventory of single-family homes for sale statewide decreased 13.7 in May compared with last year, something that has happened in eight of the last nine months.
In other housing data released Tuesday, home values nationwide increased 1.3 percent in April compared with March, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. The measurement is considered one of the best indicators of home values because it’s based on repeat sales rather than median prices. The news prompted cautious optimism among housing specialists, following seven consecutive months of dropping home values.
“With April 2012 data, we finally saw some rising home prices,’’ said David M. Blitzer, chair of the index committee at S&P indices. “It has been a long time since we enjoyed such broad-based gains.”
Brian Bethune, an economics professor at Gordon College in Wenham, said a mounting number of positive indicators shows the housing market in Boston and across the US is likely on an upswing, but it will take some time to gain momentum.
“The housing market bottomed and we have been climbing out very slowly,’’ he said.Jenifer B. McKim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @jbmckim.