Massachusetts July Home Sales Hit 7 Year High

Boston Business Journal by Lisa van der Pool, Broadcast/Social Media Editor

Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2012, 2:07pm EDT
Broadcast/Social Media Editor-Boston Business Journal

Massachusetts single-family home sales rose nearly 27 percent on a year-over-year basis in July, according to The Warren Group.

A total of 4,979 single-family homes were sold in the state in July, up from 3,922 during the same month last year, marking the highest level of sales volume in July since 2005.

Between Jan. 1 and July 31, 26,596 homes were sold in Massachusetts, a 24.8 percent increase over the same period in 2011.

“There are a lot of good signs pointing toward a real estate recovery,” said Cory S. Hopkins, editorial director of the Warren Group. “But we are comparing sales to a very depressed market last summer, so it’s important to step back and realign expectations.”

Condo sales also increased in July, rising 34 percent over the same month last year. A total of 1,994 condos were sold in July, up from 1,487 from July 2011, the Warren Group reported.

analytics general info

Cape Cod More Affordable


There was an interesting article in the Sunday Globe speaking to the fact that retirement housing, and housing in general on Cape Cod is more affordable after “seven down years in the real estate market have lowered prices to the point where owning a retirement home on Cape Cod is again an achievable dream for some baby boomers.”.


We are seeing variations of this in Provincetown as many  buyers are taking a solid look at their buying options after being on the fence for several years.  They feel better about the economic outlook. They feel that prices have moderated enough to warrant a second look, and they are seeing the benefits both financially and personally of buying a second home or transition to retirement home, and most of all buyers are honestly enjoying the personal adventure of looking for the home of their dreams in Provincetown and the Cape in general.

Below is the article by Globe correspondent Sarah Shemkus.

Massachusetts native Judy Watkins left the state more than 30 years ago, moving to Florida to escape the harsh New England winters.

Over the past few years, however, her thoughts have again turned northward. Approaching retirement, Watkins, now 67, started thinking about buying property on Cape Cod, where she could spend half the year enjoying the beaches, natural beauty, and people of her home state.

So she kept an eye on the market, watching as prices fell and options multiplied. Then, last month, she made her move, buying a two-bedroom, three-bath ranch home on a tree-ringed lot in East Falmouth for $185,000. The moment, she said, was right.

“This is absolutely, definitely the time to buy, for sure,” Watkins said

Cape Cod, with its relatively mild weather, low property taxes, and laid-back lifestyle, has long been a desirable destination for retirees.

During the real estate boom, however, even the coziest of cottages soared in price, effectively shutting many middle-income would-be buyers out of the market. Then, the economy crashed, leaving many people worried about their jobs and their investments, and disinclined to make a major real estate purchase.

Now however, seven down years in the real estate market have lowered prices to the point where owning a retirement home on Cape Cod is again an achievable dream for some baby boomers, according to financial planners and real estate agents.

“We see prices on the Cape are low and properties are starting to move again,” said Walter Herlihy, a financial planner with Beacon Financial Planning, which has offices and Centerville and Easton.

The median price for a single-family home in Barnstable county is now down to $320,000, from a high of $390,000 at the market peak, according to real estate data firm Warren Group. Prices in middle-market communities can be much lower, such as $239,000 in Bourne and $235,500 in Yarmouth, while the high-end communities remain more expensive. The median home price in Truro, for example, is $638,000, and in Chatham is $550,000.

A surge in homes for sale has helped bring prices down considerably. During the recession, many second-home owners concerned about their finances decided to sell their vacation properties. At the same time, rising foreclosure numbers meant more distressed and bank-owned homes were up for sale at depressed prices.

Furthermore, low interest rates have made it much easier for boomers to buy real estate. As recently as 2006, mortgage rates hovered near 6 percent; now a 30-year fixed rate is down to 3.55 percent. On a 30-year $300,000 mortgage, that’s a savings of about $450 a month.

“A lot of folks in that age bracket can remember the 12 to 18 percent rates of the late ’80s,” said Russ Pelletier, an agent with William Raveis Real Estate in Falmouth. “So a 3 percent mortgage now is almost looking like free.”

Potential buyers are, for the most part, also feeling more secure about their finances than they were a few years ago, during Wall Street’s more tumultuous period, financial planners report. Many experienced temporary losses during the worst of the Great Recession, but most have recovered and even made modest gains, Herlihy said.

“They’ve held on through the downturn and come out ahead of the game,” said Herlihy. “People are more confident than they were.”

However, while investors may be feeling more secure, they have not returned to the abandon that marked the peak of the real estate market, said David McPherson of Four Ponds Financial Planning in Falmouth and Hingham.

“Overall, many people are more cautious than they were five or six years ago,” he said.

Nonetheless, the combination of falling prices, low interest rates, and improving financial confidence has translated into a surge of sales activity, real estate agents report. Sales of single-family homes are up nearly 30 percent over last year, according to the Cape Cod and Islands Association of Realtors.

“People who have been on the fence, waiting to make that decision, they’ve become more active because they’ve realized prices have hit bottom,” Pelletier said

And most of those buyers, agents said, are people planning to turn a second home into a permanent residence once they retire.

“Three-quarters of the sales I’ve been involved in this year are people planning for their retirement,” said Marie Kelly, an agent with Realty Executives Cape Cod in Brewster. “They’re jumping in now on their retirement home.”

For Watkins, the buyer’s market helped convince her to commit to a property in her home state, rather than in Tennessee, the other destination she had considered. Though homes in Tennessee are less expensive than those on Cape Cod, falling prices and growing inventories made East Falmouth a viable choice, she said.

“There’s more for your money right now,” she said. “The Cape is just a great place to be.”

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Provincetown And Boston Gains Compared To Top 10 Metros

I always find it interesting to see the differences in home values across the country. In Boston and Provincetown we are in solid real estate markets with values substantially above the national average. In Boston, including all neighborhoods the median price of single family homes sold through Q2 was $364K, up 3% from last years $353K. In Provincetown the median sales price for a single family homes sold year to date through Q2 was $675K, up 15% from $586K  last year. (I don’t always use median prices for comparison but since this report does I wanted to compare apples to apples.) The post below illustrates pretty mediocre northeast performance compared to these gains we have seen in Boston and Provincetown.

See Inman post below.

Top 10 metros for median price gains


NAR: Prices up from a year ago in 110 of 147 metros


Inman News

Median home prices for single-family homes posted year-over-year gains in 110 out of 147 markets tracked by the National Association of Realtors during the second quarter, compared with 74 markets that saw annual appreciation during the first quarter. Some of the improvement in prices is due to a smaller share of sales in low price ranges where inventory is tight said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

But Yun predicted even more markets would post gains in the quarters ahead, which will improve the equity position of existing homeowners, many of whom owe more on their mortgages than their home is worth.

At the national level, the median sale price of existing single-family homes during the second quarter was up 7.3 percent from a year ago, to $181,500. That’s the biggest annual increase in six years, but still left the national median home price down 20.1 percent from the 2006 peak.

Nearly 1 in 4 markets tracked by NAR (34) saw annual price declines. Seven of the 10 markets experiencing the biggest declines were in the Northeast.

The Northeast region saw median home prices fall 1.6 percent from a year ago, to $241,300.

Metropolitan area Median price, Q2 2011 Median price, Q2 2012 Change from year ago
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.
Edison, N.J.
Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss.
Elmira, N.Y.
Atlantic City, N.J.
Pittsfield, Mass.
Charleston, W.Va.
Green Bay, Wis.
Manchester-Nashua, N.H.
Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn.


Source: National Association of Realtors

Among markets seeing the strongest annual price appreciation, many experienced sharp declines at the beginning of the downturn, including Detroit, Phoenix and Fort Myers, Fla. In all but one of the 10 markets showing the biggest year-over-year gains, the median sales price was well below the national median.

Top 10 markets for median price gains


Metropolitan area Median price, Q2 2011 Median price, Q2 2012 Change from year ago
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Mich
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.
Boise City-Nampa, Idaho
Florence, S.C.
Akron, Ohio
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Bismarck, N.D.
Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.
Peoria, Ill.


Source: National Association of Realtors

Total existing-home sales including single-family and condos were down 0.7 percent from the first quarter to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.54 million, with distressed homes (foreclosures and short sales) accounting for 26 percent of transactions, down from 33 percent a year ago.

NAR estimates that first-time buyers, who historically have accounted for 40 percent of home purchases, purchased 34 percent of all homes in the second quarter, up from 33 percent during the first quarter but down from 35 percent a year ago.

Investors, who often pay cash and compete with first-time buyers, accounted for 19 percent of all purchases in the second quarter, down from 22 percent in the first quarter but about the same as a year ago. Some 29 percent of sales were “all cash,” down from 32 percent in the first quarter and 30 percent a year ago.

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Fresh Properties For Sale In Provincetown

From  a low of $254K to a high of$3.995M here are six of the 18 new properties that came on the market in the last two weeks in Provincetown. These properties represent some of the best of the new inventory. From small stand alone condos to fabulous waterfront homes, the diversity of properties for sale in Provincetown is well represented.

262 A Bradford St $254K

This adorable cottage condo is nestled in the woods in the east End. 300 square feet of charm! It has painted hardwood floors, new windows, and a washer dryer. Sliders open to a secluded stone patio. One block from the bay beach.







2 Georges Path #B $440K

The Georges Path complex is a bucolic little neighborhood out by Shankpainter Road and Cemetery Road.  It is a mix of 2 unit condo buildings on a sweet cul-de-sac with mature woodland surrounding it, yet only a ten minute walk to town. This 900 square foot, 2 bed, 1.5 bath condo in the Georges Path complex is being marketed for $400K. The main floor has an open plan with stainless appliances in the kitchen and new cabinets. Large sliders in the living room open to a private deck that looks out to mature gardens. The second floor has 2 bedrooms, a full bath and a washer/dryer. There are hardwood floors throughout and a full unfinished basement.





290-C Bradford St $469K

This single family home was built in 2009, and is a charmer inside and out. It is a 649 square foot 1 bed 2 bath home. The main living level has bamboo floors, lots of windows, bead board, birch cabinets, a gas fireplace, and a half bath. The second floor has a master suite. The outdoor space is superb with patio, decks and a covered porch. There are two bonus spaces in the attic and in the lower level basement area. It is in a sweet east End mini neighborhood right past the East End tennis courts. (Excuse the winter picture!)




12 Howland St #C, $489K

12 Howland Street #C is a well appointed freestanding cottage set back from the street. The cottage is approximately 844 square feet and lives like a single family home and is being marketed at $489K. . (We love this description in Provincetown as it does truly describe the benefits of this type pf condo cottage) The first floor features wide plank hardwood floors and separate living and dining rooms, a large bedroom, bathroom, and eat in kitchen with period cabinets and stainless steel appliances. There is a patio located off the kitchen. The second floor features a loft area with a full height bedroom and sitting area.





40 Pleasant St #1 $525K

This is a perfect Provincetown West End retreat, located 1.5 blocks from Commercial Street in one of the sweetest neighborhoods in town and is being marketed for $525,000. This 2 bedroom, 1 bath home was totally renovated in 2005 and has been gently used by second home owners and never rented. This property has hardwood floors throughout, granite and stainless kitchen, good sized bedrooms, and a lovely large fenced private yard with blue stone patio and professional landscaping. This is one of my favorites….it’s also one of our terrific listings!






73 Commercial St $3.995M

This fabulous waterfront home is on the market for the first time in 16 years and is priced at $3.995M. Beautifully renovated and restored, each level of this residence offers a feast for the eyes. Perched at the peak of the house, is the master suite with a beamed cathedral ceiling, ensuite bath and home office. On the second floor is the main living room with beamed ceilings, wonderful built-ins and a large bayside deck. There is also a guest bedroom and full bath on this level. The first floor has another guest bedroom with ensuite BA. The large eat-in kitchen with high end appliances opens onto a deck and the lush lawn and well tended gardens. This is a stunning property!




I have taken some of the descriptive copy for these properties from MLS and added some comments of my own. Hope you enjoy!


Call It A Comeback?

Tara Steele is the News Director at AgentGenius, a terrific real estate blog, covering real estate news, technology news and everything in between. Below are excerpts of  one of her recent posts asking the questions:  Are lowering inventory levels good or bad for housing? Are reduced sales a good sign or not? Is housing recovering, or are these just signs of life? I have posted about the shrinking inventory levels and how this is pushing up demand and prices. It’s a great question to ask. While it is a positive development that inventory is being absorbed, especially foreclosures, the lack of good inventory which is required to to fuel a recovery is an issue.

Is it time to call it a comeback?

Housing has had some recent signs of health, causing a frenzy in traditional media outlets who are calling a comeback for housing, but is it too soon? When a coma patient who has been nearly beat to death opens one eye, no doctor would call the patient recovered, rather showing signs of hope for a potential recovery some day. As housing has been beaten to a pulp and opens one eye and two or three indicators show improvement, many are desperate to cling to hope that everything is recovered, but that just is not the case, and pushing that idea that everything has recovered is unhealthy for those looking for the recovery. Let’s just say that the moment anything backslides, the overly enthusiastic commentators and their following will feel slighted.

At AG, we are not calling it a comeback, in fact, you’ll see with the positive reports coming out of housing recently, we say as much in the first few lines, so that when good news is delivered, there is a huge “but” on the delivery.

Economist, Dr. Kolko weighs in

We have noted that while some economists are allowing themselves to get worked up by tiny signs of life, Dr. Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at agrees with us that the good news should be taken as part of the whole picture, not independently as a sign of recovery.

Yesterday, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that home prices have risen, but inventory is tight, explaining the lowered sales numbers.

Dr. Kolko agreed that the sales data reflects the tightening inventory, as it fell 24.4 percent year-over-year, telling AGBeat that “Although sales increased year-over-year, they’re only 35% of the way back to normal. The June sales level of 4.37m is much closer to the worst of the recession (3.77m in Nov 2008) than to its long-term normal level (5.5m).”

“The shrinking supply of foreclosed homes drives the drop in inventory and sales,” added Dr. Kolko. “The share of distressed-home sales fell from 30% one year ago to 25% in June. Sales of homes priced under $100,000 in the West – which includes lots of distressed homes — fell 36% year-over-year.”

Low inventory levels: good or bad?

Dr. Kolko notes that while inventory feels tight when compared to recent years, “it’s actually only slightly below normal levels. ‘Normal’ inventory is 2.5m, which is roughly 5-6 months of supply when sales are at their normal rate of 5.5m. Now, inventory is 2.39m, which is very near ‘normal’ but way below the elevated level of the past few years.”

Many are enthusiastic about inventory levels, but who does it benefit, and does it hurt anyone? Dr. Kolko said, “Tight inventory is good for some and bad for others. Tight inventory hurts buyers, helps sellers, and hurts real estate agents and others in the industry who depend on sales for their income.”

“Tight inventory is a necessary step on the road to recovery,” said Dr. Kolko. “As prices start to rise, buyers get impatient but sellers want to hold off. Longer-term, rising prices will encourage new construction and lift homeowners above water, both of which will bring more homes onto the market and increase inventory. But inventory has to shrink first before it expands.”