Home prices in New Hampshire set another new record; old concerns remain

Median price of a single-family hits $465,000 in May
Increasing House Prices, Houses On Isometric Piles Of Gold Coins

As the median sales price of a single-family house in New Hampshire took a record-breaking jump to $465,000 in May, the president of the NH Association of Realtors is advocating for ways to deepen the shallow supply of available homes.

The previous high-water mark of $460,000 was established in May and June of last year.

The $5,000 increase was recorded by the NHAR’s monthly report for May, even as the data showed fewer closed sales, fewer listings, less sales volume, and the fact that the homes were less affordable.

It all points to the lack of supply.

“I’d like to see a lot more construction,” said NHAR President Ben Cushing. “We want to attract good employees to our state, and we can, but when they can’t find a place to either rent or buy, how can they come to our state?”

His advocacy comes in two recent forms: an opinion piece widely published by New Hampshire media outlets, including NH Business Review and in an interview where he supported a new statewide zoning atlas that seeks to identify why it’s so difficult to build more housing because of local zoning restrictions.

“A lot of our small communities have very tight restrictions on zoning regulations that are prohibiting building,” Cushing said in an interview. “That’s one of the pushes that we as Realtors are trying to do is getting involved in our local communities to help maybe change or loosen some of those restrictions and get a little more creative with building. I’ve always said in my whole career, if I see more new construction going on up wherever I am in the state, that tells me things are getting a little bit better.”

‘A game changer’

One tool cited by Cushing in that effort is the recently released NH Zoning Atlas, which provides a digital, deeply detailed graphical display of all New Hampshire housing districts, town by town, zone by zone.

The atlas is the work of the Center for Ethics in Society at St. Anselm College, N.H. Housing, and the NH Department of Business and Economic Affairs. Several underwriters helped with the cost of the project, including the Realtors.

“This is a game changer for us as Realtors; it’s just another tool in our tool belt,” said Cushing.

Cushing took part in a YouTube interview to discuss the atlas with one of its primary originators, Max Latona, executive director of the ethics center at St. Anselm.

“Early on in this whole process, we became aware that one of the big problems in the affordable housing crisis is the way in which our communities are zoning out the smaller, more affordable type homes that so many people in New Hampshire need,” Latona said. “There are a lot of people, not-for-profit developers that want to build homes, but they can’t. And the reason they can’t is that there’s something restricting them and that restriction is what we just refer to as restrictive zoning.”

Latona described the atlas as policy-neutral.

“It’s not going to be an advocacy proposal,” said Latona. “It’s a tool for understanding, a tool for our communities, the community leaders, a tool for our state leaders, our policymakers, researchers, developers, academics, planners – all the people in the state who have an interest in this to understand our zones. That’s the first thing we think – without understanding we can’t take action.”

“We can have an informed conversation across the state – and by that I mean in each community, but also across communities and regions, at the Statehouse — about zoning and how it’s impacting our housing supply, how it’s impacting affordability, and what we need to do to make some adjustments,” Latona added.

In his opinion piece, Cushing advocated for giving property owners more control of what they can do with their land.

“For example, one New Hampshire town proposed placing 300 feet of frontage – the length of a football field – as a requirement on certain single-family housing developments. Another community mandates 5 acres to build a single house,” he wrote. “And while zoning was originally created to simply keep incompatible uses of a town’s land separate from each other, it has been misapplied to limit private property rights and make housing development less affordable.”

He cited the previous $460,000 median price record as “well above the ability of the median income earner.”

As of May, that’s even more expensive.

The affordability index in New Hampshire was 66 in May – a seven-point drop from May 2022. A value of 100 indicates that the typical median-income family has exactly enough money to qualify for a home. Any value below 100 means that a family may struggle to qualify for a mortgage on a home in a particular area. The lower the value, the greater the struggle to afford the mortgage.

The number of homes for sale during May was 1,489, almost 10 percent fewer than a year ago.

“If we go back to 2015 and we were having this discussion, I would have told you there’s probably like 14,000 houses for sale in New Hampshire,” said Cushing. “We’re nowhere near where we need to be. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I don’t see us getting back to those numbers for a very long time.”

Among the state’s 10 counties, Rockingham remains the priciest. Its median house price in May was $585,000, 1.3 percent less than a year ago but still well above the next most pricy –Hillsborough County at $493,750.

Within Rockingham County, the Seacoast region saw its median price for a house balloon to $765,000, a record for that area, according to the Seacoast Board of Realtors. That beat the previous mark set in June 2022 by $15,000.

“The inventory shortage continues to make our real estate market ultra-competitive, while pushing up median sale prices,” said Seacoast Board of Realtors President Jessica Ritchie. “Even with higher interest rates, the demand for Seacoast real estate property remains nothing short of robust.”

Categories: News, Real Estate & Construction