Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Boston, its impact on the region’s housing market is still reverberating.

The year-end statewide median single-family sale price has jumped from $400,000 in 2019 to $510,000 at the end of 2021 according to The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman, as buyers piled into bidding wars enabled by record-low interest rates.

And even as the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose from 3.05 percent in December to 3.85 percent this week, according to Freddie Mac, the intensity of the market has stayed high. Research released by Redfin this week shows the share of Boston-area homes selling for $100,000 and more over asking price has risen to nearly 5 percent of all sales through Feb. 15, compared to 1.1 percent in the same period last year.

“The housing market was in a frenzy in the beginning of 2022, with buyers competing for a limited supply of homes and sellers reaping the rewards of bid-up prices,” Redfin Deputy Chief Economist Taylor Marr said in a statement. “Buyers are likely to face strong competition at least through the next few months as demand is buoyed by the temporary drop in mortgage rates fueled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But bidding wars may ease a bit by summer as more new listings come on the market and mortgage rates resume their rise.  Homes are still likely to sell above list price, but the premiums will probably be lower.”

Across the nation’s housing market, demand remains strong, too. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported this week that the number of purchase applications rose 10.5 percent week-over-week for the week ending March 4, the same week rates took a momentary dip as investors fled to the safety of U.S. treasury bonds from instability caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Mortgage rates dropped for the first time in 12 weeks, as the war in Ukraine spurred an investor flight to quality, which pushed U.S. Treasury yields lower. A 6-basis-point decline in the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage led to a slight rebound in total refinance activity, with a larger gain in government refinances. Looking ahead, the potential for higher inflation amidst disruptions in oil and other commodity flows will likely lead to a period of volatility in rates as these effects work against each other,” MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting Joel Kan said in a statement. “Purchase activity also increased, as prospective buyers acted on lower rates and the early start of the spring buying season. The average loan size remained close to record highs, with higher-balance loan applications continuing to dominate growth.”

But in Massachusetts, those buyers are entering a market with the lowest level of inventory in at least 23 years, if not longer. A mere 2,387 single-family homes and 1,498 condominiums were on the market in January, according to the most recent data available from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. Those figures represented 50.1 percent and 56.1 percent drops year-over-year, respectively, and the lowest levels on record since at least 1999, according to the association’s data.

While total numbers of house and condo sales statewide continue to exceed 2019’s levels – January saw 3,510 single-family and 1,442 condo sales close, for example, compared to 3,244 and 1,248 in 2019 respectively – observers continue to watch for signs that a combination of rising interest rates and ever-higher prices will significantly dampen homebuyers’ spirits, or even their ability to afford what’s out there.

Pandemic’s Aftermath: More Boston Homes Sell for $100K Over Asking

by James Sanna time to read: 2 min