Home prices fall as sales, foreclosures rise

Housing sales have been so gloomy for so long that any bit of good news can’t help but jump out – such as the fact that housing sales rose last month in Hillsborough County, compared to a year ago.

It’s the first time since August 2007, and only the third time in the past two years, that the county has seen a year-to-year increase in home sales.

News that the housing slump that started in 2006 is bottoming out? Perhaps – but alas for optimists, the county’s foreclosure numbers are also rising, and the average sale price of a house continues to fall.

In fact, the National Association of Realtors connects all these numbers. It says that tion of Realtors connects all these numbers. It says that around a third of home sales in September around the country were “foreclosure related,” which usually means prices are slashed by financial institutions that took over properties when the owner defaulted, and are tired of being in the landlord business.

Still, a sale is a sale – and in several New Hampshire counties, more of them took place in September 2008 than September 2007.

Sometimes it was a lot more: Hillsborough County saw a 13 percent rise, and Rockingham County saw a 17 percent rise.

Statewide, sales were up 3 percent; nationally, home sales were up more than 2 percent in September.

It’s not known whether foreclosure sales contributed to the increase in New Hampshire, because no state-specific data is available about how many sales were foreclosure related, said Dave Cummings, director of communications for the New Hampshire Association of Realtors.

“We do know that when sellers become more realistic about where they should price their homes, more are going to sell,” Cummings said.

Realistic, in this case, means an 11 percent decline in median prices, those at which half of sales were for less and half were for more.

This may not reflect an 11 percent decline in the average price of a home, however; it could also be the result of more smaller, less expensive homes being sold during the month.

As for the foreclosure situation in Hillsborough County, it isn’t getting any better – but at least it’s getting worse at a slower rate.

According to figures from the Hillsborough County Registry of Deeds, there were 87 percent more properties in foreclosure through the first nine months of the year than during the same period last year.

As bad as that is, things had been worse: During the first three months of 2008, foreclosures increased by 133 percent from the year before.

Good and bad news in the housing market

Here are figures on foreclosures, sale prices and number of homes sold in Hillsborough County:

Home foreclosures continue rising
Year Number
2005 101
2006 296
2007 629
2008 764
(*2008 through Sept.)

Sale prices continue falling

Median sale price
Sept. 2007 $275,000
Sept. 2008 $244,000
(an decrease of 11 percent)

Home sales increase

No. of home sales

Sept. 2007 230
Sept. 2008 259
(an increase of 13 percent)