N.H. quarterly home sales rise for first time since ‘04

The New Hampshire Association of Realtors said residential sales for the third quarter of 2009 rose 3 percent over sales in the third quarter of 2008 – the first time since the fourth quarter of 2004 the state has seen a year-over-year increase in sales.

In raw numbers, 3,273 units changed hands in the third quarter of 2009, 3 percent more than the 3,164 units sold a year earlier.

Median home prices, however, continued to fall. This time they were down by 8 percent to $220,000, compared to $238,490 in the third quarter of 2008.

Another potential pitfall: September sales totaled 979, or 2.8 percent lower, than the 1,007 sales recorded in September 2008. This follows monthly gains in June, July and August.

Statewide, average days on market were virtually unchanged. In the third quarter of 2009, homes were on the market for an average of 134 days versus 132 days in the same quarter a year ago — about a 2 percent increase.

Locally, home sales rose in the third quarter for all New Hampshire counties except Belknap (-2 percent), Cheshire (-18 percent) and Grafton (-4 percent). The biggest gains for the quarter were seen in Carroll County, where 215 units sold as compared to 185 units in the comparable quarter a year ago, an increase of 16 percent.

Median home prices were down across all counties, with Coos County prices plunging some 32 percent to $78,500, down from $115,000 in the third quarter of 2008. Prices in Cheshire County had the smallest decrease, 4 percent, to $177,000 from $185,000 in the year-ago quarter.

For the month of September, Sullivan County had the largest increase in sales — 20 percent — or 30 units sold versus 25 in September 2008. Strafford County saw a dip of nearly 19 percent, with 79 homes sold in September 2009, compared to 97 in September 2008.

Grafton County was the only county to have an increase in median sale prices — $212,500, up 2.4 percent — compared to $207,500 in September of last year.

Days on market varied in counties across the state. Carroll, Hillsborough, Merrimack and Stafford saw decreases in the time it took homes to sell, while Belknap, Cheshire, Coos, Grafton, Rockingham and Sullivan saw homes sit on the market longer.

Homes sold the quickest in September 2009 in Carroll County, with average days on market of 127 days — down from 199 days, or 36 percent, in September 2008. Home sales took the longest in Cheshire, with homes sitting on the market for an average of 153 days, up 44 percent from September 2008, when homes sold on average in 106 days.

“As we’ve said before, this seems to be a market that’s continuing to figure itself out,” said Paul Sargeant, president of the association and a broker with Better Homes and Gardens The Masiello Group in Bedford. “There’s a long way to go, but we seem to be taking small steps toward the turnaround that we’re hoping for. A positive third quarter is another one of those small steps.” — CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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