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Fear Factor as Sellers Jump in

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis June 24, 2014 08:11 AM

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Maybe, just maybe, Boston-area sellers are finally getting it: If you want to sell, now's the time.

More homes hit the market in May than at any time since 2007, just before the Great Recession lowered the boom, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reports this morning.

The number of new listings rose more than 4 percent, to 9,674, according to MAR. That's a sliver of good news in a market that has been increasingly distorted for a couple years now by a severe shortage of homes for sale.

As the number of homes for sale has dropped, prices have risen, boxing out ever expanding circles of frustrated buyers.

"With new listings up significantly in May, overall inventory has the potential to move in a positive direction in the months ahead," said MAR President Peter Ruffini, regional vice president at Jack Conway & Co., in Norwell, in a statement. "There is no question the market needs more homes for sale to prevent prices from spiking too high and adversely impacting the real estate recovery."

Yet whether it's all a little too late to stop the real estate recovery from unraveling is another question.

Frankly, sellers aren't jumping in now because they are excited about the market and eager to cash in on rising values. Rather, fear is the more likely motivator now.

After all, the latest news coming out of the real estate market all points to a stalling sales and trouble ahead.

The gravy train of rock-bottom interest rates won't last forever. As troubling, we are locked into a vicious cycle of falling sales and home prices outstripping paychecks, which have been stagnant for years.

And the May numbers were no exception. Both MAR and The Warren Group are reporting significant drops in home sales combined with another big jump in the median price of a home in Massachusetts. As prices rise, more buyers get locked out, further depressing sales.

The Warren Group pegs the median price at $340,000, for a 4.7 percent gain in May, while MAR pegs it at nearly $348,000, representing a 7 percent increase.

It doesn't take a Karl Case to figure out that this is not a sustainable cycle.


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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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