Home Sales Flat, Price Up Ahead Of Spring Market

Source: State House News Service
Author(s): Colin A. Young

What difference can a year make? When it comes to home sales in Massachusetts, the answer is about $50,000.

There were 2,042 single-family homes sold in Massachusetts in February, the exact same number of sales as in February 2023. But analysts at The Warren Group said the median sale price last month reached a new all-time high for the month of February at $548,250, a 10 percent increase over February 2023’s median sale price of $498,369. February’s data added to what has been a familiar trend: monthly sales that are down or flat while the median sale price regularly sets new record highs.

Cassidy Norton, associate publisher and media relations director for The Warren Group, said there’s no reason to expect that dynamic to change in the near future as the spring home buying season gets underway.

“A lack of inventory is the biggest factor driving these trends, and with fewer and fewer homes hitting the market, we can fully expect to see more recording-setting prices paired with a low sales volume in the coming months,” she said.

Through February, there have been 4,438 single-family home sales so far this year in Massachusetts, four more than during the first two months of 2023, The Warren Group said. But the median sale price so far this year stands at $550,000, a 10.2 percent increase over the $498,869 median sale price through the first two months of 2023.

Housing in Massachusetts is inaccessible or unaffordable for many residents, and Gov. Maura Healey last year identified housing as “the number-one issue facing this state.”

Legislative committees are reviewing the five-year, $4.12 billion housing bond bill (H 4138) that Healey filed in the fall seeking to kickstart the production of new housing units. And though there is broad agreement that the state has an economic imperative to make more housing available, some pieces of the governor’s bill — like the potential for local-option real estate transfer taxes — are viewed as controversial in the Legislature because they will add to housing costs.

The Housing Committee gave the bill a favorable report and advanced it earlier this month without making any changes to the governor’s proposal. It is now before the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets.

On Friday, the National Association of Realtors agreed to pay $418 million over approximately four years to settle antitrust litigation related to broker commissions. The longstanding practice has been that a seller’s agent gets a roughly 6 percent commission upon making a sale, with some of that money then going to the agent who represented the buyers.

Groups behind the litigation argued that the arrangement meant agents might steer buyers towards homes that would produce a higher commission for themselves, and critics bristled at the fact that the commission for the buyer’s agent was essentially taken out of any profit the seller made on a sale.

But while some industry observers have suggested the settlement could help reduce the barriers to buying a home, Norton told WCVB-TV on Friday that it’s “hard to say at this point” exactly how the settlement might change the home-buying or home-selling processes.

“What we do know, at the very minimum, is that the two agents — the buyer agent and the seller agent — cannot communicate with each other over the MLS about what they want their rate to be. They can still email each other, they can still call each other, but they can’t do it over the MLS. So that’s all we know,” she said, referring to the Multiple Listing Service platform. “Things may change beyond that. It may be that the buyer is now responsible for the buyer agent’s commission. It may be that negotiations become a lot more common because it has been about a 6 percent rate for quite a while. But we’re not really sure yet what this is going to do for the market. If it turns out that buyers end up paying their own buyer agents, that’s not good news for Massachusetts because the home prices are already so expensive.”