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Not as many Boston-area homes going for over their asking prices anymore

In a region where bidding wars were once the norm, barely one-third of homes last year went for above their tags

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

Once upon a time, bidding wars were common in the Boston-area housing market. Prospective buyers vied to one up each other at crowded open houses, leading to closing prices well over the originals that buyers and their brokers had put out there. Tips for winning bidding wars abounded. (Come with cash seemed to top most lists.)

That’s all in the past. Or at least it certainly looks like it.

Just 34.7 percent of Boston-area homes sold for over their asking prices in 2019, a 40 percent drop from 2018, according to real estate listings and research site Zillow. The site tracked deals in which it could match a listing’s original price with its final sale price.

The share of over-asks was also down similarly from 2017, and mirrored a national trend. The share of over-asks nationwide was 19.9 percent in 2019, down more than 21 percent from 2018, according to Zillow.

“The housing market took a breather in 2019, after years of red-hot sellers’ markets,” Zillow economist Jeff Tucker said. “Many sellers were caught off-guard by the changing conditions, and ended up accepting offers at or below list prices that were dreamed up during the height of the frenzy.”

In the Boston area, the decline in the shares of over-asks was more pronounced in some cities and towns than in others. In Malden and Cambridge, more than 50 percent of homes went for over the original listing price. In Lynn and Lawrence, just under 50 percent did.

More than 40 percent of homes went for over asking in Medford, Haverhill, Waltham, and Somerville, according to Zillow; and, in Boston proper, 32 percent did. Newton had the least highest share of over-asks among the Boston-area municipalities that Zillow tracked, with only 28.1 percent going for above listing.

The decline in over-asks—and the drop in the frequency of related bidding wars—reflects a shifting Boston-area housing market. It’s one that—gasp!—is pivoting more in the favor of buyers than sellers. Prices have moderated and sales have dropped (the two are almost certainly related), but inventory does remain tight and the region continues to grow.

That could serve as a recipe for a resurgence in cash offers and open houses with lines out the door. What’re you experiencing?