Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Home, Condo Sales Figures Show Deeper Chill

There's more confirmation of the chill in Boston's housing market. According to figures from the Warren Group, for single-family homes, the median price was down by more than 19%--almost the average for the whole state. Compared with January of last year, the number of sales was down by 5.9%. The statewide figure was 10.3%.

In West Roxbury, sales for single families were down by more than 41.7%, but the median price was up, by almost 28.9%. In Dorchester, there was only a slight increase in the number of sales for January (from 7 to 8), but the median price was down by 35.1%.

In Boston's condo market, sales and prices were below the state average. Even in what recently been the strongest market, the mostly high-end areas near downtown Boston, the median price was down by 18.5% and the sales volume was down by 46.7% Citywide in January, condo sales were off by almost 29.7%, while the median price was down by almost 32.7%.

In areas with more than a half dozen transactions, the largest drop in the median price for condos was in Dorchester, with a decrease of more than 69.3%. Dorchester had more condo sales than last January--an increase of 45.8%. Market observers say many of these involved properties in foreclosure.

“The inventory in the foreclosure market is just so great now,” said the Dorchester office manager for Jack Conway & Co., Julie Simmons.

“Investors are coming out of the woodwork that we haven’t seen since the 1990’s,” she said.

Simmons says clearing away the inventory of distressed properties will help the rest of the market. But observers note that bargains don’t always attract buyers who improve the property and increase values.

Simmons points to one condo unit in a three-decker on Draper Street, on Meetinghouse Hill, that recently sold for $40,000. According to real estate analyst John Anderson, two-thirds of the units recently sold in Dorchester went for less than $100,000. His figures show Dorchester condos have lost 72.4% of their market value since the last peak of the market, in mid-2006.

Though the number of condo sales in Dorchester has increased dramatically over January 2008, observers say other buyers and sellers are staying out of the market, or at least stopping short of closing a deal.

“They’re just not out there,” said Anderson. “They’re sitting on the sidelines, looking to see how far down things are going to go.”