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Realtors express ‘caution but optimism’ about housing market

From the Fed’s latest Beige Book report, with our bold emphasis added:

Realtors in the First District express caution but optimism about the mixed sales results that continued in the region in February. Year-over-year sales of single family homes decreased in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and increased in Maine and Vermont. (Contacts in New Hampshire were unavailable for comment in this round.) In the condominium market, sales increased relative to last year in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, while decreasing in Rhode Island; condo sales information is not reported in Maine. The consensus across the First District is that the decline in sales will be short lived; respondents say it was partially driven by the tough winter, as well as uncertainty about new federal flood insurance rules. Signs of spring weather and new legislation limiting flood insurance premium increases are lessening these concerns. In Massachusetts, however, inventory shortages are said to be the key reason for the decline in sales. One Massachusetts contact stated “there is just not enough supply to meet demand.” As a result, Massachusetts contacts say multiple bids are common and the median sales price for single family homes has increased compared to the year-earlier median in 17 consecutive months. Median sales prices also increased year-over-year in Connecticut and Maine, but declined in Vermont and Rhode Island. Residential real estate contacts say they expect sales to pick up seasonally this spring, but foresee no significant market shifts.

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