N.H. home sales rise as prices continue to drop

The bad news is that homes in October were selling for less than they were at the same time last year in New Hampshire. The good news is more of them were selling, and the time it took to sell them was virtually unchanged.The median sale price in October for a New Hampshire home was $210,000, 7 percent off the $226,000 median price last year, but the number of homes sold – 1,083 – was up by 8.2 percent, according to figures released by the New Hampshire Association of Realtors.The larger year-to-date pictures are slightly less comforting because they include some horrendous months in January and February. Year to date, the median home sale price stood at $213,000, an 11.1 percent drop from 2008 and the total number of sales roughly remained the same (a 0.3 percent increase, to 8,857).And all the activity was with an $8,000 federal tax credit to spark interest among first-time homebuyers.Still, according to the New Hampshire Association of Realtors – considering how bad things have been going over the past few years – that this is very good news.“This appears to be yet another small sign that the recovery is under way,” said NHAR President Paul Sargeant, a 20-year veteran of the real estate business and a broker with Better Homes and Gardens The Masiello Group in Bedford. “After the bleak sales numbers of January and February, I wouldn’t have believed that we could be ahead by the end of the year, but we very well may be.”In the first two months of the year, sales were down 14 percent, but in the next eight they have been up by 2.2 percent, the Realtors said.Coos County – the county to feel the recession first, and the deepest – has led the state thus far in both plunging prices and uptick in sales. The average price of a home in the northernmost county was $72,000, a whopping 35 percent drop from a year ago.But such low prices appeared to have sparked sales, which have increased nearly 11 percent (to 286 over 10 months). In October, Coos homes sold for a little more $89,000, and the 41 sales represented a 7.9 annual increase.No county escaped has depressed prices year to date, though in October, there was an increase in the median price of homes in Belknap County, to $192,875, a 9.4 percent increase over October 2008. The steepest decline was in Merrimack County, where the median price of a home in October sold for $189,000, a 12.1 percent decrease.Year to date, the biggest drop in home sales was in Cheshire County (12.8 percent) though the county also had the smallest drop in prices (6.8 percent).Bob Sanders can be reached at bsanders@nhbr.com.