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Boston-area home prices up at the start of 2020 as sales increase amid tight supply

Not until inventory increases will the market really turn in favor of buyers

Looking up at a multistory condo building just behind a street sign and traffic light. Shutterstock

It seems the once expected buyer’s market in the Boston area will tarry. New data show home prices rose in the region in January, as did sales—both against a background of stagnant supply that’s apparently nowhere near keeping up with demand.

The median detached single-family and condo sales prices, in fact, set records for the month, according to new data covering closed deals in January from the Greater Boston Association of Realtors and the Warren Group, a local research firm.

The median detached single-family sales price was $605,000, up 2.7 percent from January 2019; and the median condo price was $577,500, up 2.2 percent. The Warren Group has been tracking the data since 1987, and the new report covers 64 municipalities, including Boston proper.

Despite the higher prices—and in the surest sign that the market still tilts in the favor of sellers—sales were up annually. For single-families, that meant a 7.5 percent rise, to 762, and, for condos, a 21.7 percent increase, to 671.

A relatively mild winter and low mortgage rates contributed to these sales bumps, Jason Gell, president of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors, said. So did the demand very familiar in a Boston area that has experienced steady population growth in recent years.

Then there’s the supply of available homes. That continues in the new year to drag on the market as far as buyers are concerned. The number of active single-family listing was down 32.1 percent annually in January, and the number of new listings for the month was down 18 percent. For condos, the number of active listings was down 19.1 percent and new ones down 8.8 percent.

The realtors-Warren Group report says that that basically means there’s a two-month supply of homes left in Greater Boston. That’s frustrating news for buyers—and music to the ears of sellers.

“With inventory so low, today’s buyers are often competing against many others for a limited supply of properties on the market, and that’s putting a lot of upward pressure on prices,” Gell said in a statement. “This is a great time for anyone thinking about selling to do so and reap the benefits of the escalation in home values in the last several years.”