By the numbers – the real estate market

Positive trends in Island home sales continued in the third quarter, as home sales increased dramatically in the quarter ending September 30, 2010, while median home prices declined in four of five Island communities.

By the numbers, all in all, 77 homes sold, up nearly 18.5 percent from 65 homes sold during third quarter 2009. Total residential sales were $105.4 million, up nearly 34 percent from about $90 million a year ago. Through the nine months, 297 properties (homes, land and condos) sold, compared with 195 properties in the like 2009 period.

Median sale prices reached five-lows in four of the six Island towns. According to statistics prepared by Link, the Island’s real estate listing and statistical service, median sale prices by town, compared with third quarter 2009, were: Edgartown: $625,000, down 10 percent. Oak Bluffs: $483,000, down 8 percent, Vineyard Haven: $400,000, down 11 percent, West Tisbury: $641,000, down 17 percent. Chilmark’s median price increased to nearly $2,693,000 from $750,000 in 2009. Analysis shows the 2009 Chilmark figure was an aberration. The 2010 figure is more in line with historical price levels. Aquinnah recorded no home sales in the quarter, compared with three sales during the prior year third quarter.

Island-wide, the inventory of homes, land and condos grew to 815 listings, compared with 674 in the 2009 period.

“We have seen an appreciable decline in days on the market. You’re seeing an inventory of properties priced by motivated sellers, and days on market is reflected by that,” Eleanor Wilson, Link’s customer service agent, explained.

Realtors and bankers have paid close attention this year to the relationship between selling price, asking price, and assessed value.

“We see a close correlation between sale prices and assessed values in homes in the lower price ranges, and we see higher priced homes sell for more than assessed value,” Alan Schweikert, owner of Ocean Park Realty in Oak Bluffs, said. “This is like a positive perfect storm, just like conditions a couple of years ago were for the economic collapse. I’ve never seen this combination of low prices, low mortgage rates, and inventory in my 37 years here.”

Mr. Schweikert senses a turnaround. “Prices have come down. That’s how things turn around. A lot of buyers perceive that the bottom is here. Unless offers are ridiculous, buyers and sellers are reaching accord by being realistic,” he said this week.

As for financing possibilities, Edgartown National Bank has a record number of loans in process, Paul J. Watts, executive vice president and senior loan officer, reported this week.

“We have money to loan at rates historically low, so we are seeing a large number of refinancings, and people are starting to move into purchases. Not enough to call it a boom, but slow and steady improvement,” he said.