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Boston-area housing market cooling off, brokers say

Or at least it’s becoming “more normal” as plentiful inventory in many places and moderating prices aid prospective buyers

Aerial shot of a city at dusk, with skyscrapers in the foreground. Shutterstock

Sales of single-families and condos increased in September in the Boston area in September compared with the year before, according to a new report from real estate research firm the Warren Group and the Greater Boston Association of Realtors.

At the same time, the report—which tracked closed deals in 64 towns and cities, including Boston—also found that prices were either up only slightly last month or down. And there were generally more homes for prospective buyers to choose from in September than previously.

These conditions have the realtors association suggesting the once unthinkable: That the Boston-area housing market—so long the domain of ceaseless escalating prices, vicious bidding wars, and often paltry inventory—might be turning in favor of buyers.

“The sellers’ market is likely over, or at least the balance has shifted,” Jim Major, president of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors and an agent with Century 21 North East in Woburn, said in a statement. “With sale prices having begun to stabilize, more homes and condos available for sale, and properties sitting on the market longer, home values have most likely peaked in many areas.”

Major also described the regional market as “a more normal” one in September—not necessarily one that’s a bonanza for buyers, but perhaps trending toward that.

Single-family sales in the Boston region increased 6.5 percent in September, to 1,060, compared with the same month in 2018, though the number was down more than 32 percent from August, which is traditionally busier anyway because of summer relocations.

Meanwhile, the median sales price for a Boston-area single-family reached a September record of $605,000, a relatively modest 1.7 percent gain from the year before, though again off from August, when the median price was $640,000.

As for Boston-area condos, the median sales price was $549,000 in September, down 4.1 percent from September 2018 and 3.5 percent from August. Sales, though, were up annually 3.4 percent, to 790. They were down month to month—interestingly by more than 32 percent, like with single-families. See the chart below for a wider lens.

The rises in sales was due not just to the perennial demand for homes in the steadily growing region, according to the realtors association. It also reflected the declines in prices, either year to year or month over month, and an increase in the inventories of available homes.

The number of active condo listings, for instance ,was up 8.7 percent annually and 22.1 percent monthly in September. The number of active single-family listings was up 14.6 percent monthly, though down 11.4 percent annually.

“In many communities,” Major said, “the number of homes for sale has been on the rise since August and that’s led to slower price appreciation and even some price adjustments, as well as less frequent bidding wars, all of which is good news for buyers.”