Prices for single-family homes in Massachusetts increased modestly in April — marking the first bump in seven months — igniting cautious hope within the real estate industry that the yearslong housing downturn is coming to an end.
Median home prices rose 1.1 percent, to $275,000 in April, compared to $272,000 during the same period last year, according to data released Tuesday by Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks local real estate.
The slight increase builds upon other markers suggesting the local housing market is strengthening. In addition, the number of single-family homes sold in April increased by nearly 22 percent compared to the same time last year, the third consecutive month of double-digit increases, according to Warren Group.
Some communities, including Brookline, Newton, Cambridge, and downtown Boston, also are experiencing bidding wars among potential buyers, real estate agents said.
“What we are seeing is a lot of nice, single-family homes in many, many towns are being snapped up,’’ said Alex Coon, market manager for the online brokerage firm, Redfin. “I’d be surprised if prices don’t start going up. We can’t see a frenzy in this area and not have that start to spread.”
Massachusetts home values have struggled to recover since the housing market peaked in 2005, triggering a decline in prices of about 20 percent before they hit a low in 2009.
Nationwide home prices, which fell even further since 2005, are also now improving. The median home price for existing homes in the United States rose 10.1 percent to $177,400 in April compared to a year ago, the second month of year-over-year increases, according to data released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors.
Eric Belsky, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, said the increase in prices represents the first signs of improvement occurring without the federal home buyers tax credit, which helped push up home values up in 2009.
“We are starting to see pricing firming up in many markets,’’ he said. “It comes as welcome news.”
For some real estate agents this is great news. Boston real estate broker John Ranco said that his business, focusing in the downtown market, is so strong this year that the total dollar amount of sales has already surpassed all of 2011.
“The general pattern has been up, up, up,’’ said Ranco, who is also the vice president of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors. “There has been a lot of pent-up demand.”
But Michael Goodman, an associate professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts, said other areas of the state, including hard-hit towns in Western Massachusetts, are still struggling.
“We are going to really need to see some sustained growth in sales volumes and median prices to declare the downturn is over,’’ he said.
Statewide, single-family home sales increased by more than 18 percent between January and April, compared to the same time last year, according to Warren Group. Condominium sales increased as well, rising 11 percent this year, Warren Group said. Median prices for condos also rose to $280,000 in April 2012, a 3.5 percent increase compared to the same month last year.
But housing specialists say they need more sellers to push the market forward. Inventory for both single-family homes and condominiums was down in April, compared to last year, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.
“When the properties come on and they are priced correctly, we are getting multiple bids,’’ said real estate broker Gail Roberts, who works for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Cambridge. “I definitely think the market has turned.”