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Pending Massachusetts condo sales down sharply in March amid coronavirus

But sales of single-families were up during the month that saw the pandemic declared, according to the latest figures

A row of four-story brick buildings along a city street. Shutterstock

The number of pending condo sales in Massachusetts was down sharply in March compared with the same month in 2019, in what might be the first sign of the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the state’s housing market.

The number of condo sales was down 17.7 percent annually, to 1,718, according to the newest figures from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. At the same time, the number single-families put under agreement in March was up only 1.7 percent for the month, to 4,908.

It’s difficult to say whether the pandemic—which really began to disrupt things such as open houses, stagings, and closings in mid-March—was the main cause of the decline in pending condo sales and the paltry increase in single-family agreements. Recent statistics suggest a market coming out of the traditional winter doldrums with the traditional spring bounce ahead. The March pending sales figures might simply reflect that typical course—or they might be the harbinger of declines to come.

The number of closed single-family deals in Massachusetts was down in February, for instance, by nearly 7 percent, according to the realtors association. And the number of closed condo sales was up just 3.3 percent.

What’s more, the median prices for those pending deals agreed upon in March were up over the same month in 2019—6.3 percent, to $415,000 in the case of single-families, and 13.6 percent, to $426,000 for condos. The state saw similar price gains in February based on closed deals. Again, things might be pointing price-wise to a market simply gearing up for spring. Maybe not.

The Massachusetts Association of Realtors for its part is counting on the tight inventory of available homes for sale and the perennially high demand to carry the market through. Mortgage rates also remain at historic lows.

“Inventory continues to be in short supply here in the Bay State, and while we expected COVID-19 to impact the housing market in March, it is a bit surprising that the impact was not more pronounced,” Kurt Thompson, a Keller Williams broker in Leominster and president of the realtors association, said in a statement.