tempAfter years of market turbulence, prospects for the national housing market – and the Massachusetts real estate industry – are looking very optimistic.  

According to a new report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing home sales in the Northeast rose 3.2 percent for a 10.3 percent increase from December 2011 sales. In terms of regional value, the median existing single-family home price increased to $231,600 in December, marking a 5.3 percent improvement from a year ago.  Across the country, listing inventory is down more than 20 percent from last year and unsold inventory is at its lowest since 2001. Despite tight inventory, total sales soared to a five-year high, while annual prices rose the most since 2005. Given this positive momentum, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun predicts, “Both sales and prices will again be higher in 2013.”

Closer to home, the real estate outlook is in sync with national sales trends. Greater Boston started off the year with record low inventory, and in many local markets, supply is not meeting buyer demand.  

According to NAR statistics for the region, 31 percent of all homes were on the market for less than a month in December. Another motivational factor is the low interest rates in the area – making real estate transactions as affordable as they have been in years. The overall market activity suggests that patient buyers are finally taking the leap; and sellers realize there hasn’t been a better time in recent memory to put their house on the market.  Boston is definitely on the move again.  

 

Less Is More

Realtors looking to capitalize on today’s promising home market might want to consider these trends so that they can better help both buyers and sellers improve the sales process:

Plan for success. A buyer’s enthusiasm does not negate his/her inherent desire for homes in move-in condition. Prospective homeowners will continue to negotiate for unexpected inspection repairs; therefore pre-inspections should be discussed early in the listing process. Being proactive is a great way to make a preemptive strike and be ready to seal the deal when an attractive offer comes in. Sellers that stage their homes and take steps to make their property turnkey, before placing it on the market, will see the best results in 2013.  

In terms of interior aesthetics, the styling that appeals to potential buyers is evolving. Today’s homeowners want a modern, uncluttered look with open living spaces, high-end finishes and clean lines. Potential buyers want fluid, functional spaces, built-ins, flat screen TVs and smart house technologies rather than stuffy, traditional living rooms with heavy window treatments, formal lighting, and ornate wallpaper. This year’s design theme is less is more.

New construction, when house lots are attractive and pricing is reasonable, continues to be in high demand in most communities. Not all homebuyers, however, are interested in traditional, freestanding, single-family homes. Nationally, condominium sales are 22.9 percent higher with prices up 16 percent over last year. Locally, condos and one-floor living continue to be a popular, viable choice for first time buyers, young professionals and aging baby boomers.

A growing number of empty nesters want to downsize from large suburban homes so they can transition to smaller, new residences with upscale features and sought-after amenities. These savvy buyers seek a sophisticated, streamlined lifestyle in a fresh setting with less square footage.  The wish list for this mature, discerning audience often includes privacy, low maintenance, quality appointments and proximity to Boston.   

Finally, the forecast looks sunny for sellers in 2013 – if they price their homes accurately. Locally, the number of days a house remains on the market is dwindling; and low inventory, sideline buyers and accurate pricing are predicted to prompt bidding wars in the Bay State.  

After weathering the uncertainty of the real estate market, Boston area sellers and buyers are educated, looking for good value – and ready for brighter days.  

Amy Mizner is a principal of Benoit Mizner Simon & Co. LLC, with offices
in Weston and Wellesley. Email: Amy@benoitmiznersimon.com.

 

Strong Demand For Condos, Tight Home Inventory Drive Spring Market

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min
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