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Real estate slowdown – um, I dunno

As home prices soared, existing-home sales dipped for the fourth month in a row, according to the National Association of Realtors’ report for May.

National Real Estate Sales Fall

Sales fell nearly 1 percent month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.80 million — approaching pre-pandemic levels. Sales were 44.6 percent higher than they were a year ago, about two months into the coronavirus scourge.

Lack of Real Estate Inventory

“Lack of inventory continues to be the overwhelming factor holding back home sales, but falling affordability is simply squeezing some first-time buyers out of the market,” NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a press release.

Only 1.23 million units were available at the end of May — a 7 percent increase from April but down 20.6 percent from a year ago, when 1.55 million homes were on the market.

Median Home Prices Rising

That drove up the median existing-home price for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops to $350,300 in May, a record year-over-year increase of 23.6 percent.

First-time buyers accounted for just 31 percent of sales, down from 34 percent last year. Rising home prices and tighter lending contributed to the drop.

Individual investors and second-home buyers purchased 17 percent of homes in May, a tick up from 16 percent last year. All-cash sales accounted for 23 percent of transactions, down by a quarter from the figure by a quarter but 17 percent more than the share of cash sales last year.

The median existing single-family home price was $356,600 in May, up 24.4 percent from last year. Single-family home sales fell to a rate of about 5.1 million, down 1 percent from April and up 39.2 percent from a year ago.

The median price for a condo was $306,000 in May, a year-over-year increase of 21.5 percent. Condo and co-op sales had a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 720,000 units, the same as in April but a 100 percent increase from last year.

Boston Real Estate for Sale

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Ford Realty Inc., Boston Real Estate for Sale

Ford Realty Inc., Boston Real Estate for Sale

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So, readers ask, what do I think of the slower Boston real estate market?

Sales of single-family homes dropped a whopping 25 percent in July in Massachusetts, and condo sales also fell precipitously by 21 percent compared to the same month last year, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported.

Prices also declined for both categories — 3.5 percent for single-family homes and 4.1 percent for condos. – Source: The Boston Business Journal

I don’t know if I have anything to add to the conversation. On one side, I think you have more people putting their homes on the market than previously, a phenomenon I can’t explain. It seems counterintuitive to be doing so. I guess people fear they won’t be able to sell, down the line, because of higher inventory levels, so they put their homes on the market, now, which, of course, makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Why aren’t people buying?

I dunno. First, it’s not that no one’s buying. It’s that fewer people are buying. I bought a condo in May, for example. I needed/wanted to move, so I did. The difference between what something is selling for, today, and what something MIGHT sell for, tomorrow, wasn’t a big concern to me. People who want to or must buy, are buying.

The experts list a bunch of reasons that people aren’t buying. I agree with all of them. Or, none of them. High prices? Sure. High-interest rates? Sure. Are speculative buyers getting out of the market? Okay. Tough economy? If you say so. Fear of war and worldwide conflagration? Undoubtedly.

The percentage of people who own versus rent, in the United States, actually increased, over the past several years. There’s always going to be a limit on the number of owners, though, don’t you think, no matter what homes cost. Some people will always rent.

Maybe we just hit that limit. Now, we’re just seeing the typical, normal number of owners turning over their homes.

I have had more buyers contact me over the past two weeks than in the past two months. Could be luck or good fortune (karma?). Could be a sign that things have stabilized.

If I was a first-time homebuyer, and lived in Boston, or was moving to Boston, I’d buy, versus rent, because that’s the kind of person I am.

If I was a parent with a child coming to school in Boston, I’d definitely buy, because rents are still really high, in Boston, and going higher.

If I was a rich suburbanite, looking to move into the city, I’d still buy. I’d price my home in the suburbs below the competition because I bought my home back in 1970, and I’m sitting on three-quarters of a million dollars in gains.

If I lived in a two-bedroom condo in the South End, I guess I’d put off selling, if it was simply so I could buy another two-bedroom condo, down the street.

That’s about where I stand on this, I guess.

Contact me to find or set up an appointment to start your Boston condo-buying process.

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Updated: Boston Condos for Sale 2021

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