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Massachusetts home prices up as winter eases, new figures show

But what of coronavirus’ effects on the real estate market? Unclear—yet

A welcome mat at the outside foot of a door on a brick path. Shutterstock

In what will likely be the last statewide tea-leaves-reading of housing market figures before the novel coronavirus is factored in, new Massachusetts Association of Realtors numbers for February are out.

They show a marked decline in single-family home sales compared with February 2019, but a generally healthy market for sellers due to a lack of inventory of available homes for buyers.

The number of single-family home sales in February dropped 6.9 percent year over year, to 2,493, according to MAR. That kept with a trend: The number of closed sales has been down or flat eight out of the last 12 months. The realtors group blamed the February sales drop on a more than 32 percent decline in available homes to buy. Basically, if there were more homes, there'd be more deals.

“A lack of inventory kept buyer demand from pushing closed sales up for single-family homes in February,” Kurt Thompson, MAR’s president and a broker at Keller Williams Realty North Central in Leominster, said in a release on the numbers.

As for single-family prices, the median was up 4.2 percent annually in February, to $395,000. That’s a rare bright spot for buyers as it was the first time in nine months where the median sales price was below $400,000.

Things were more evenly robust in the Massachusetts condo market. The number of sales was up 3.3 percent in February, to 1,153, and the median price was up 13.2 percent, to $395,000. The increases came despite an inventory decline similar to that for single-families: 24.6 percent in the case of condos.

Both the inventories for single-families and condos were at their lowest for any February going back to 2004, according to Waltham-based MAR.

Whatever the February numbers, they seem like a coda not only for the winter market but for the Massachusetts housing market pre-coronavirus. The virus’ spread has already upended conventional real estate sales practices, especially open houses, and sown doubt about demand heading into the prime spring home-trading season.

“As the expected impacts of COVID-19 continue to grow across many industry sectors, MAR will stay engaged and closely monitor the impact on the market and the overall economy in the coming months,” Thompson said.