Bay State real estate agents are gearing up for the traditionally busy fall season, while many sellers who waited out the summer months are now listing their properties for sale. This 10-room custom Colonial in Northborough is currently on the market, being offered for $799,900.

With the lazy days of summer officially coming to an end after Labor Day weekend, Bay State real estate agents are ramping up for what is expected to be a busy fall season.

Low mortgage interest rates are fueling buyer demand while sellers – hesitant to put their homes on the market during summer months when many people are in vacation mode – are deciding now is the time to move.

Traditionally, residential real estate activity picks up in the fall, although some local agents said the slowdown that usually comes during the summer months – particularly in the dog days of July – wasn’t as evident this summer as in past years.

“We’ve been consistently busy. There’s been no slowdown this summer,” said Shari Marquis, owner of Marquis Real Estate GMAC with offices in Boston, Duxbury, Plymouth and Wareham.

Marquis anticipates even more business in upcoming months. In fact, several Realtors interviewed by Banker & Tradesman last week said that new property listings started emerging during the last few weeks of August – a good sign of times to come.

“September and October are historically two of the busiest months for real estate,” said Marquis, a regional vice president for Greater Boston for the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.

Given the favorable interest rates and the buyer demand that is still evident in many parts of the Bay State, others are also predicting a steady flow of transactions this fall.

“We’re optimistic that it’s going to be a very, very good fall season,” agreed Bernadette Gibson, a MAR regional vice president for the Northeast region.

Many local Realtors start planning their marketing schedules and do more mailings to draw additional listings in the fall, while others re-evaluate their Web sites and start formulating business plans.

“They [real estate agents] get back into the groove in September,” said Margie Richard, vice president and an owner of Re/Max First Choice Real Estate in Northborough.

Last fall was marred by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Business came to a near standstill for several weeks after the tragedy. Even though real estate agents reported that sales activity bounced back quickly, the temporary slowdown affected the overall sales and closings that were recorded in the fourth quarter.

In fact, sales of single-family homes and condominiums were down 6 percent during last year’s fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2000. There were 18,269 single-family and condo sales during the fourth quarter of last year, down from 19,422 sales recorded in the fourth quarter of 2000, according to The Warren Group, parent company of Banker & Tradesman.

Barring any disasters this year, the fall season is likely to do well in terms of sales and prices, according to real estate experts.

“I would expect the fourth quarter to be as good or better than it has been in the past,” said Marquis.

Signs of the Times

While some economists have expressed concern that the housing market is a bubble that is on the verge of bursting, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently assured otherwise. Greenspan and others contend that real estate is not as speculative as stocks and bonds and that a sharp drop in mortgage rates and increased immigration is encouraging more buyer demand.

In some parts of Massachusetts, there is a large buyer pool and not enough homes for sale to satisfy the demand. Gibson said that’s particularly true in some of the densely populated communities in the Northeast.

But Re/Max’s Richard said the listing shortage wasn’t as severe as prior years. Some agents who work at Richard’s firm have been busy doing several comparative market analyses each week for prospective sellers.

“I’m not saying there’s been an influx of inventory, but it’s certainly more than it was a year ago,” said Richard.

On the South Shore, Realtor Betsy Q. Hines has already seen more interest from sellers. Typically, the last few weeks of August are quiet, she said, but this year her office had calls from prospective sellers.

“That’s an excellent sign,” said Hines, owner of Betsy Hines, Realtors in Marshfield and president of the Plymouth and South Shore Association of Realtors.

Even with the additional homes coming on the market, the listings are still not enough to satisfy demand and cool escalating home prices, according to some observers. If anything, prices might “level off” but won’t decrease, they say.

“There’s definitely more buyers out there than sellers,” said Donna M. Kiernan, of Realty Executives in Raynham. Buyers are taking their time in their home searches and looking at more homes before they make a decision, said Kiernan, but most are still paying full price or more for the homes they eventually choose to purchase.

Kiernan, who is the president of the North Bristol County Board of Realtors, said that she has seen more sellers who are seeking to downsize emerge during the last few weeks to take advantage of the seller’s market.

“Their [downsizers’] homes are going quickly,” she said.

Pieces in Place for Strong Fall Sales Season

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min