Littleton area real estate market slows

Last year, real estate agencies across the state and Grafton County experienced an overall downturn in sales.

A 0.54 percent fall in prices reflected a 10.8 percent downturn in the sale of residential properties in Grafton County from 2005 to 2006. Additionally, homes were on the market 12 percent longer in 2006 than 2005 for an average total of 105 days last year, according to a recent report issued by the New Hampshire Association of Realtors.

“There’s no denying that it was a relatively difficult year in terms of sales,” said Bonnie Guevin, NHAR president, but Guevin is also certain the market will bounce back in 2007.

Littleton area Realtors felt the slump too.

Andy Smith of Peabody & Smith Realty said 2005 and 2006 were completely different in terms of sales, though he was quick to point out that expensive housing markets in Lebanon and Hanover often heavily skew countywide data. Smith said however, local towns did experience a similar slumping phenomenon in comparison to the rest of the county.

Data compiled by Northern New England Real Estate Network showed homes in Littleton stayed on the market an average of 123 days in 2006, that figure is up 26 days from 2005. However, in Littleton the average selling price of a home increased from $160,050 to $161,031.

Dick Reinhold of Reinhold Associates said Littleton’s values could be credited to its economy.

“Littleton is probably the most economically diverse community in the state,” he said, and the town isn’t affected the same way as more tourism-driven communities like Franconia and Sugar Hill.

Homes in Lisbon and Easton also increased in price, but that trend is dissimilar to other Littleton area towns, where most average home prices dropped from 2005 to 2006.

The towns of Bethlehem, Franconia and Whitefield all experienced significant drops in price, for overall percentage changes ranging from a 12 to 17 percent decline in pricing.

In 2005, the shortest average number of days on the market was 34, while in 2006 the shortest number jumped to 85. In a similar trend, the longest average number of days on the market was 205, a length up by 46 days from 2005.

Reinhold said much of the change was due to a lack of real estate investors in the area.

“Investors are fleeing the real estate market,” Reinhold said.

While some areas, like Littleton, are generally not affected by investors just looking to turn a profit, towns like Franconia, Sugar Hill and Bretton Woods typically see investment-related sales.

Reinhold also said investors only make up a small part of the real estate market and people looking to live in the area permanently have continued to keep sales active. According to Reinhold, real estate has appreciated by 12 to 14 percent over the last four to five years, compared with an average of 7 percent each year over the past 37 years and any dip over the past year is relatively insignificant compared with the over 30-year trend.

Real estate analysts believe the market will change for the better once again in 2007, and Peter Francese, a demographer with NHAR, believes consumers are ready to start buying houses again.

“Consumer sentiment is gradually turning around to the point where consumers believe home prices are not likely to decline any further,” Francese said.

According to Francese, this is a positive change and means as soon as warmer weather hits the state the market will heat up as well.

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