N.H. 1Q home sales data best in years

In a continuing trend for the state’s housing market, two new reports have found that home sales are on the rise in New Hampshire, although the median price is falling.The two reports, released by RE/MAX of New England and the New Hampshire Association of Realtors, found that while the number of homes sold is on the upswing in the state, median price is stagnating or dropping.”This is about supply and demand, and it’s about home prices continuing to adjust to a market that has been favoring buyers for several years now,” said John Rice, president of NHAR.The NHAR report found that first-quarter residential home sales are at their highest level since 2007, which was attributed to the mostly snow-free winter, combined with a large inventory and low interest rates and prices.Some 2,223 homes were sold in New Hampshire in the first three months of the year, a 17 percent increase over the 1,903 sold through the same period in 2011, the report said. But over that same time period, median price dropped nearly 5 percent, from $197,500 to $188,000.For March, New Hampshire residential sales were also ahead of last year’s pace by 17 percent, from 769 in 2011 to 896 in 2012. Median price in March 2011 compared to March 2012 declined 3 percent, from $195,000 to $188,750.Figures from the RE/MAX survey were somewhat different but generally spoke to a similar trend in the housing market.That survey, which uses MLS figures, found that in March there were 1,090 units sold in New Hampshire at a median price of $179,550 — a 12.3 percent jump from the 971 units sold in March 2011, but a slight drop in price from the median price of $180,000 last March.It also found that the houses sold in March 2012 spent fewer days on the market — 137 days, on average — than those sold in March 2011, when the average house had been on the market for 151 days.Elsewhere in New England, only Maine and Massachusetts saw year-over-year gains in median price, and of those New England states that saw a year-over-year drop in price, New Hampshire’s was the smallest, the RE/MAX report found.The NHAR report found that there were unit sales increases in each of the state’s 10 counties in the first quarter compared to the same time last year — including a 65 percent gain in Sullivan County, 42 percent in Coos County, 31 percent in Cheshire County and 18 percent in the state’s largest county, Hillsborough.On the other hand, there were decreases in first-quarter median price in all counties except Merrimack and Coos.Rice said he believes the surge in sales is likely to mean the beginning of the end of falling prices.”That’s just fundamental, free-market principles — more sales equals less inventory, which eventually equals higher prices,” he said. “In future years we’ll look back and be able to pinpoint when prices stabilized. We can’t know that point while we’re going through it, but if this pace keeps up, I can’t imagine we’re too far from it right now.” – KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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