Home Buying

In real estate, so goes the nation, so goes Mass. Well, yes and no.

Key takeaways from the National Association of Realtors’ buyers and sellers report.

A for sale sign sits in front of a pumpkin-colored home with a farmer's porch and green shrubs and trees.
First-timers made up 26 percent of all buyers, the smallest percentage of total buyers since data collection began. -- Jon Gorey/Boston.com file Jon Gorey


A report released by the National Association of Realtors on Thursday reflects a real estate market still acting like the neighborhood jerk.

The report, based on data collected from July 2021 to June 2022, doesn’t reflect the the market cooldown nationwide, but its findings highlight trends with lasting implications: Buyers and sellers are getting older, properties are selling more slowly but for more money, the racial gap in homeownership is widening, and first-timers are the smallest percentage of home shoppers since the organization began collecting data.

Market experts in Greater Boston said they are seeing those effects here and blame the historically low inventory of homes for sale and pent-up demand for skyrocketing prices. The state saw a 16.2 percent year-over-year drop in single-family home sales and a 22.9 percent slide in condo sales in September, according to a report The Warren Group released Oct. 18. Meanwhile, median home prices increased 7.8 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively.

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It is important to note that the National Association of Realtor data also do not reflect significant mortgage rate hikes since June. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.22 percent at the beginning of the year. By mid-June, it was up to 5.78 percent and on Nov. 3, it was 6.95 percent.

Here are some takeaways from the report — and reflections from local experts:

1. First-time buyers

Nation First-timers made up 26 percent of all buyers, the smallest percentage of total buyers since data collection began. That figure was 34 percent last year, and the historical norm is 40 percent. Their average age was 36, up from 33 in 2021.

Here “Younger first-time home buyers, on average, have lower incomes and less money for down payments than other home buyers,” said Richard J. Rosa, cofounder and co-owner of Buyers Brokers Only. “Until recently, that group of buyers faced a difficult Greater Boston real estate market.”

2. Sales prices

Nation The median sales price was 100 percent of the listing price, the highest recorded since 2002, and 28 percent of buyers paid over asking.

Here Everyone interviewed for this story said this is also true in Massachusetts, but Rosa said those days may be over.

“The fierce competition during the first half of 2022 resulted in home buyers paying tens of thousands of dollars over asking prices,” Rosa said. “During the last month of the NAR survey period, June 2022, home buyers in the Commonwealth paid 106.2 percent, on average, of the original listing price, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. That’s changing quickly. In September, home buyers paid 99.9 percent of the original listing price.”

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3. The racial gap in homeownership

Nation Of all home buyers, 88 percent were white, up from 82 percent in 2021.

Here But what about in Greater Boston? “Yes, the racial gap has gotten worse within the city of Boston,” said Melvin A. Vieira Jr., a realtor with RE/Max and president of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors. “Even though we had record sales and record prices, the minority community wasn’t able to take advantage of it. They had to rely on traditional lending practices such as FHA, MFHA, the MassDream program, the One program, the STASH program, or a five percent or ten percent down payment, while others had the luxury of putting down twenty percent or more, using cash or leveraging their savings for a large down payment.”

The 2022 report by MassHousing’s Racial Equity Advisory Council for Homeownership found that debt-to-income ratio was the most common reason why Black and Latino buyers were denied mortgage credit and that denial rates for people of color were higher regardless of that ratio or combinations of DTI and income.

4. Days on market

Nation Homes were staying on the market for 14 days, up from seven in 2021.

Here Cohen said properties in Greater Boston may stay on the market even longer than that this fall.

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“That’s probably about right, depending upon the time of year,” he said. “It’s a bit longer than that right now. That’s the kind of figure that lulls buyers and sellers alike into the false sense that real estate is a readily liquid asset. Depending on the market you’re in, it might not be.”

5. The hunt

Nation The median buyers’ home search took 10 weeks, up from eight in 2021 and 2020.

Here Anthony Lamacchia, broker/owner of Lamacchia Realty, said buyers are taking longer to find their homes here as well. “With all the bidding wars, many buyers lost out on the houses they wanted and had to continue their search before finally getting an offer accepted on a home,” Lamacchia said.

6. Financing

Nation Seventy-eight percent of buyers financed their purchase, down from 87 percent in 2021.

Here This rang true to Lamacchia.

“Because of rising prices over the last two years, buyers have had to get creative about how to come to the table with a cash offer, and many did,” he said. “Many pulled money from their 401Ks, borrowed money from family, took out equity lines on existing homes, etc.”

7. Typical buyer

Nation The average seller age was 60, up from 56 in 2021.

Here “Many homeowners who would have listed their homes in 2020 or 2021 delayed due to COVID and out of fear of having strangers coming in their homes,” Lamacchia said. “These metrics will likely show these effects for years.”

8. So little research for such a big buy

Nation Sixty-seven percent of the buyers and 80 percent of the sellers interviewed just one real estate agent before deciding whom to hire.

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Here James Nemetz, senior vice president and manager of Hammond Residential Real Estate said Massachusetts sellers are more savvy and interview multiple agents.

“You always hear that axiom that sellers always have to get three opinions,” Nemetz said. “We always assume when we go to a listing appointment that we’re up against other competitors. In this region, especially in the high end, we’re usually competing against another agent.”

9. Stay a little longer

Nation The typical seller owned the home for 10 years, up from eight in 2021.

Here Nemetz finds that scenario is playing out in Greater Boston as well: “Suppose an empty-nester still has a mortgage. Let’s just say that the kids went to college, they took a half-a-million-dollar mortgage on the house, and they have that mortgage at two point seven five percent,” he said. “All of a sudden, downsizing becomes expensive for them, because actually, they’ll have to pay more for a smaller home. And they’ll lose that two point seven five percent rate, and the new rate will be closer to seven percent.”

10. Down payments

Nation The median down payment was 14 percent of the purchase price. In their 2021 report, NAR said the payments have shrunk since 1989, when the average was 20 percent.

Here Shant Banosian, executive vice president of sales at Guaranteed Rate, said Greater Boston buyers are putting down less, but he offered a ray of hope for home shoppers.

“Buyers who are staying in the market are actually starting to win because there’s less competition,” Banosian said. “Homes are priced better than they were six months ago. Things like mortgage contingencies and home inspections are back. It’s a bit less overwhelming because things are moving slower and buyers have more protection.”

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Jim Morrison can be reached at [email protected]. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at Boston.com/realestate. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeHomes.

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