In Business : In real estate as in other business sectors, sales slowed but improved at year-end
Martha's Vineyard real estate sales volume declined in 2009, compared with volumes for 2008, but a fourth-quarter strengthening improved the market's annualized performance, as it did for other sectors of the Island economy.
Dukes County sales fell about nine percent for the year just ended. On the Cape sales volume was off by about four percent. At Nantucket, the news was brighter, as sales volume rose 12 percent for the year. Figures come from the Warren Group, a real estate data publisher based in Boston.
The improved business conditions in the fourth quarter of 2009 saw many Island retailers trim anticipated large deficits for the year, so that a year in which business owners might have predicted 17- to 20-percent declines in sales at the end of the third quarter actually ended the year with a decline of 12 percent or less.
In real estate, the news was similar. For instance, a 73-percent hike in sales volume in December 2009, compared with the like period in 2008, meant that for the year as a whole the decline in Island sales volume was limited to less than 10 percent. And on the Vineyard, the December median price for a real estate transaction rose a bit less than one percent, to $633,750. For 2009 as a whole, median price declined about 15 percent from the median in 2008, and the average price was off about six percent.
Any way one slices it, the market was down compared to 2008. But in fact, annual transaction volumes have been in decline since 1998, although volume, measured in dollars, increased annually through 2005, as did median sales price. 2006 saw that price inflation reverse itself, and the reversal has continued, though at differing paces across the spectrum of market segments. Though volumes have declined sharply and steadily, prices of some high value segments of the market have remained stubbornly high, and significant pent up appetite for such properties remains.
The accompanying graphs reflect the declining annual sales volume since the late 1980s and the lingering resistance to the sort of rapid priced deflation recorded elsewhere in the U.S.
Low interest rates, inventory levels double those that marked the high flying moments in the Vineyard market since 1969, and the Vineyard's undiminished attractiveness to residents of the Eastern Megalopolis over time combine to support sales here, although the national economic calamity has taken a toll.