SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 31, 2013

Lack of homes slows sales

SALEM — A lack of houses to sell seems to have put the brakes on November sales in Massachusetts.

It’s the first time home sales have dropped year-over-year since April, real estate experts say.

The slower November sales were due to rising prices, increasing mortgage interest rates and fewer homes on the market for buyers to pick from.

“With the supply of homes for sale low and prices escalating, we may have reached a turning point where the recovery continues but with less frenzy,” said Timothy Warren, CEO of The Warren Group, in a prepared statement.

“You can’t sell a product if it’s not on the shelf,” said Jim Armstrong, the 2014 president of the North Shore Association of Realtors and owner and founder of Armstrong Field Real Estate on Essex Street in Salem. Armstrong said there was an increase of about 4 percent in prices for single-family homes in December.

You can buy a home in Salem for $325,000 in-move in condition, Armstrong said, but there is little available in the price range under $300,000.

Salem has seen its median home sale price jump 14.5 percent, from $262,000 in November 2012 to $300,000 last month. And there have been 199 homes sold in Witch City year-to-date — a more than 21 percent jump compared with the same 11 months last year, according to The Warren Group.

“Look at any of the open houses we have,” Armstrong said. “The open houses are packed with buyers, much more so than last year.”

Homes that are priced right usually go under agreement “almost immediately,” Armstrong said, with more than one bidder looking to make an offer. It’s the normal supply-and-demand dynamic, which Armstrong said bodes well for real estate prices in the coming year.

“We are not going to see any crazy increases like we did in the early 2000s,” Armstrong said. He said it appears the market is “normal,” except for the lack of houses to sell. Interest rates are also creeping up to about 4.5 percent, putting more pressure on buyers to find just the right home before rates rise.

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