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Local housing market index: Confidence is up among real estate agents

A monthly index that seeks to measure confidence in the local housing market rose for the seventh straight month in February, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

Relying on monthly responses from a random sampling of its membership, the association uses a 100-point index to plot confidence levels. A 100-point reading signifies a torrid market, a zero reading a frosty one.

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In February, the association’s market index posted a reading of 39.47, up from the February 2011 reading of 28.1 and up from a 31.9 reading in January 2012.  The last time there was a stretch of six straight months of year-over-year increases was from November 2009 to May 2010, the association said.

“Not having a true winter, along with our historically-low interest rates and relatively affordable prices, has been responsible for significant increase in activity and Realtors across the state are feeling it,” association president Trisha McCarthy said in a statement. “Realtors who responded to the survey feel more confident about prices stabilizing as the combination of activity and current inventory levels are increasing demand.”

The association’s confidence index seems to be roughly in line with sales figures for the Massachusetts residential real estate market in January.

By one measure, the number of single-family homes sold in Massachusetts that month were up more than 3 percent on a year-to-year basis, fueling optimism in the real estate industry that the region’s sluggish housing market may finally be gaining momentum.

According to the Warren Group, a Boston firm that tracks real estate sales, 2011 was the slowest year for single-family home sales in Massachusetts since 1990.

Median prices for single-family homes fell statewide in January, down 3.7 percent to $260,000, when compared with the same month in 2011, Warren Group said.

Chris Reidy can be reached at
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