Real estate recovery slow as sellers lower expectations

Real estate recovery slow as sellers lower expectations

The gap between what homeowners are asking for their homes and what buyers are willing to pony up has been slowly decreasing, but houses are still closing for significantly less than what their owners hope for.

The divide began slowly closing since last March, when average asking prices were still on a three-month climb and the average selling price fell to $169,000 below the average asking price, according to data from Carlson GMAC Real Estate in Concord. Now the average home is selling for about $56,000 below the average asking price of $647,000.

“Brokers and sellers have become more realistic about what price will sell,” said Joan Meyer, owner of Acton Real Estate on Massachusetts Avenue.

Over the past several months, the average selling price has stayed between $585,000 and $608,000, while the average asking price has come down about $60,000, since it peaked in last March.

As sellers become more realistic, according to Meyer, homes are taking less time to sell. Homes spent an average of 92 days on the market in June, the shortest amount of time since last November. In March, when the gap between the average asking and selling price was at its height, homes were spending an average of 241 days on the market.

“We’ve had a very spotty ’07,” said Meyer. “There are little blips.”

After years of increasing prices, the statewide real estate market began to cool over the past several years, bottoming out last year. Prices across the state have begun to stabilize, but have yet to significantly pick up again.

Despite the upward trend in the average price of a house in Acton over the past three months, Meyer said that more houses in Acton are becoming available in the $400,000 to $500,000 range.

The trend in neighboring Boxborough has been more erratic. Aside from a rebound last April, the average asking price for a single family home has been falling steadily from $764,000 last January to $595,000 in June.

The average selling price has at times topped the average asking price in Boxborough, a fact that Charlie Blair, a real estate agent at Carlson GMAC in Concord, said could possibly be attributed to a the sale of a small number of higher priced homes skewing the average.

Homes in Boxborough have also been spending more time on the market on average than in Acton and have only come down recently. In December, homes in Boxborough were on the market for an average of over a year, according to the Carlson data. But in June, that time dropped to an average of 66 days.

“It’s definitely still a buyer’s market,” said Blair.

Blair and Meyer pointed to high property taxes and the general economy as possible factors for the slowdown in the market and the fall in prices.

“I don’t think people are getting the raises they used to get,” said Meyer.

Still, sales of single-family homes more than doubled in both towns between May and June to 28 in Acton and 5 in Boxborough.

Meyer said that the quality of the local schools has helped buoy the local real estate market and continue to draw new people in.

“We’re fortunate that the Acton schools are so good because that’s a big draw for people coming out of the city,” she said.

The condominium market in both towns has been more volatile, both in terms of the average asking and selling price and the average number days on the market. In Acton, the average asking price for a condo has stayed fairly constant around $300,000, but the average selling price has varied widely, at times exceeding the average asking price. Condos were on the market for an average of 127 days in Acton, down from 270 in March.

In Boxborough, the average asking price for a condo has risen to $191,000, up from $170,000 in March, and $58,000 above the average selling price. The average number of days on the market for a condo in Boxborough peaked at 227 in April and is now 118.

Meyer said that business has been picking up in the last month, but when asked if she could predict where the market was going, she said, “I haven’t a clue. I don’t think anyone does.”

Christian Schiavone can be reached at 978-371-5743 or at cschiavo (at) cnc (dot) com.

By Christian Schiavone, GateHouse News Service

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