Real estate sales rise in Jan. as prices fall

The first month of 2012 brought some mixed signs to New Hampshire’s housing market, with January residential home sales beating out the prior January for the third year in a row, with the median price trending downward year over year.A total of 656 single-family homes were sold in the Granite State in January 2012, up 20 percent from the 549 that sold in January 2011, according to data released by the New Hampshire Association of Realtors.The 656 units sold in January is the most sold in the month since 2007. And that’s good news, said John Rice, president of the association, but still not indicative of a sudden turnaround in the housing industry.”Although it’s human nature to look for that one defining month that signals to everyone that the recovery in the housing market is afoot, that’s just not the nature of this economy,” he said. “As we continue to hear from economists, we’re probably in the early stages of a slow upward climb.”The mild weather and largely snow-free winter probably played a role in the strong January housing numbers, he said, particularly compared to last January, when the statewide temperature averaged 17.6 degrees for the month, according to the New Hampshire State Climate Office.”We’re happy to report positive news in terms of the market, but we also need to be clear about the context — and right now the context is that we’ve had positive conditions compared to last year,” he said.While the number of units sold rose from the previous year, the statewide median price dropped from $207,000 in January 2011 to $198,500 in January 2012.The decline in median price is due to the continued influence of the foreclosure market, said Rice.Carroll County had the largest decline in median price, dropping 22.3 percent, from $193,000 to $150,000, year over year. Median price did, however, increase in four of the state’s 10 counties — including a 22 percent jump in Coos County from $64,000 in January 2011 to $78,000 in January 2012.In terms of local markets, eight of the state’s 10 counties had unit sales increases in January compared to a year ago, including a 108 percent jump in Sullivan County, 45 percent in Belknap County and 36 percent in both Cheshire and Rockingham counties. The state’s largest county, Hillsborough, had a 14 percent sales increase.There was no change in the number of units sold in Merrimack County, and only Carroll County was the only county with a decline, from 55 units sold in January 2011 to 47 in January 2012.Condominium sales were also up year over year, with 164 condos sold in the state in January 2012 — a 7.2 percent increase from the 153 sold in January 2011. Median condo price also rose over the period from $146,000 to $149,950. — KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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