GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 28, 2009

Agents find optimism in home sales

By Richard Gaines

The real estate market is showing signs of recovery.

Statewide and regionally prices are inching up, the volume of sales is increasing, and the inventory volume is shrinking back to normal levels.

"Based on what we experienced in June, it is quite clear that the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit is helping to move the market in the right direction," said Gary Rogers, president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. "We still have a way to go, especially with continuing concerns about unemployment, but with the number of pending sales up over the same time last year, we do have reason to feel optimistic."

Statewide, the median price for a single-family home crept beyond $300,000 to $306,000 for the first time since August 2008, according to the association and the MLS Property Information Network Inc.

In Gloucester, the sources reported a modest but distinct uptick in activity and value, although sales and the median value remain below numbers from a year ago.

Second-quarter sales closed 36 transactions, up from 19 in the first quarter. The median value of the sales also climbed, from $250,000 to $299,500.

The second quarter last year saw 45 sales at a median price of $350,000.

"We're definitely seeing an increase," said the association's Eric Berman.

He said while Massachusetts suffered with the rest of the country after the real estate bubble popped, there had been less speculation here so the impact of the pop was less severe.

Berman also cited the commonwealth's history as a "home rule state" with the "many different sets of rules" as a cause of the modulation.

Comparing the year from July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008, to July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009, in Gloucester, the volume of sales dipped from 144 to 124 and the median price fell from $352,500 to $300,500.

The inventory or residential properties on the market as of June 30 decreased 16 percent compared to the same time last year, from 50,705 listings 2008 to 42,355 listings in 2009. At the current sales pace, this represents approximately 7.2 months of supply in June 2009.

This is down from 8.4 months of supply last year and down from 9.8 months supply in June 2008. And on a month-to-month basis, the average months of supply is down from 9.9 months in May.

The association considers it a balanced market when there are between 7.5 and 8.5 months of supply.

The inventory of single-family homes also decreased 16.0 percent from June 2008 — 35,516 listings in 2008 to 29,949 listings in 2009 — which translates into 7.2 months of supply in June 2009. This is down from 8.4 months of supply last year and down from 9.8 months of supply in May. Supply is down to its lowest levels since mid-2007. This is the 15th straight month that inventory has gone down compared to the year before.

"With inventory going down for the past 15 months, it doesn't take much of an uptick in sales — even if it is still lower than last year — to bring the months of supply down to its lowest levels in years," Rogers said.

Richard Gaines may be contacted at rgaines@gloucestertimes.com.