Mass home sales slump to lowest level in 21 years

Mass home sales slump to lowest level in 21 years

Home sales in Massachusetts in 2011 hit their lowest levels since 1990, despite low interest rates and “soft” median sales prices that dropped 3 percent last year, real estate market analysts reported Tuesday, according top the State House News Service.

At just 15,122, condominium sales also plummeted 16 percent last year to their lowest total since 1995, according to The Warren Group.

The streak of five straight months of improvement in home sales was halted in December, when over-the-year sales were down 5 percent.

There were just under 39,000 single-family home sales in 2011, down 6 percent from 2010. The last time there were that few home sales was 1990, when 35,819 homes were sold in Massachusetts.

In a statement, Warren Group CEO Timothy Warren Jr. called the December sales volume “a bit disheartening” but noted December 2010 sales were the best since 2006.

The first quarter of 2011 was the worst of the year and sales were up for the fourth quarter, a sign that the market may be on an upswing in the new year. Mr. Warren noted the sales figures for 2011 were stacked up against 2010 sales that were lifted by a homebuyer tax credit that has since expired.

The median home sale price in the fourth quarter was $270,000, down from $285,000 in the fourth quarter of 2010. New Massachusetts Association of Realtors data also showed December and 2011 sales declines.

“In general, we are encouraged by the strides the market made in the second half of the year to close out 2011,” association president Trisha McCarthy, broker at Keller Williams Realty in Newburyport, said in a statement.

Ms. McCarthy said the unusual and damaging October 2011 snowstorm, which caused widespread power outages, dampened December sales. “On the other hand, the milder winter, coupled with low interest rates and reasonable home prices, should improve the outlook,” she said.

Single-family homes stayed on the market in Massachusetts for an average of 114 days last year, compared to 103 in 2010 and the average monthly inventory was down 1.1 percent from 2010.

Mr. Warren called the 6 percent sales decline “pretty modest.” He said, “It could have been a whole lot worse. The question now is whether the market is poised to make a slow and steady recovery given the improved jobs picture in Massachusetts. I would say yes. The coming spring market will tell a lot about the future of real estate in Massachusetts.”