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Boston’s housing market continues to shift in buyers’ favor as prices drop, sales slump

It’s not necessarily cheap to buy in the city—but things certainly look different than they did a year ago

A row of houses and apartment buildings with colorful exteriors. Shutterstock

Sales prices in the Boston housing market—especially for condos—were trending downward toward the end of 2019.

That is according to data tracking closed deals during November from the Greater Boston Association of Realtors and real estate research firm the Warren Group. The data back up a wider trend in the wider region: a once-unthinkable turn in the market toward buyers’ favor.

First, the prices. The median sales price for a single-family home in Boston proper in November was $604,500, down 0.7 percent from the same month a year before and down some 8 percent from October. The average price per square foot was up 0.2 percent year over year and 4.9 percent month to month, however, to $448.

For condos, it was all downward. The median sales price was $645,000 in November, down 0.8 percent annually and 2.7 percent monthly. What’s more, Boston condo prices were down 1.9 percent year to date in November. The average price per square foot was down annually and monthly—1.9 percent in both cases—to $755 a foot.

As for sales, the number of single-family deals in November was down 35 percent annually and down 10 percent year to date (though up 40.7 percent monthly). Condo sales were down 8.8 percent compared with November 2018 and 9.7 percent year to date (though, like with single-families, up around 40 percent from October).

What’s going on? For one thing, the inventory of available homes has slumped—the numbers of new single-family and condo listings were both down annually and monthly in November, according to the realtors association and the Warren Group. That’s due to sellers sitting on the sidelines and to the city’s historical lack of new housing.

There also might be a psychological explanation for the slump in sales and the dips in prices. Prospective buyers could simply be done with years and years of escalating prices in the Boston market. Call it a correction or a rebalancing then—a trend borne out by months of data now, not just the November-into-December numbers.

“There is less of a sense of urgency among today’s buyers, and they’re showing more sensitivity to price and condition as the market has showed signs of cooling,” Jim Major, president of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors and an agent with Century 21 North East in Woburn, said in a statement. “As a result, homes are sitting on the market longer and owners need to be more realistic in their pricing if they expect their property to sell in the desired timeframe.”