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Mass. home sales hit 7-year high

Sales of Massachusetts homes reached their highest level in seven years as more buyers jumped into the housing market to beat rising interest rates, analysts said.

Single-family home sales rose to 5,941 statewide, a jump of 18.5 percent from a year earlier and the highest sales volume for any month since June 2006, according to Warren Group, a Boston firm that tracks real estate and publishes Banker & Tradesman. The median price of a single-family home rose 10 percent to $349,000 from $317,275 in July 2012, the 10th consecutive month of median price increases, Warren Group said Thursday.

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It was also the fourth consecutive month in which prices exceeded $300,000.

“Consumer confidence is high, interest rates have been pretty low, and I think people are taking advantage of the stimulus those rates presented,” said David Harris, editorial director at Warren Group.

Condominium sales also increased in July, rising almost 17 percent from a year earlier, according to Warren Group. The median condo price rose 5.5 percent to $310,000 from $293,700.

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Analysts said the prospect of rising mortgage rates is pushing more people into the market, increasing competition for a low inventory of homes on the market in Massachusetts and driving prices higher. Nationally, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.5 percent, up about a point from May, Freddie Mac, the government-owned mortgage company reported Thursday.

In addition, local rents are rising, providing another incentive for buyers to act. The Federal Reserve is expected to soon begin reducing its stimulus program that has helped keep interest rates low.

“People are now feeling more of a sense of urgency getting into the housing market,” said Eric Belsky, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

The Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which tracks a slightly narrower swath of the housing market, reported similar activity in July. Single-family home sales rose 20.3 percent from a year ago, while the median price increased 7.7 percent to $350,000 from $325,000, the realtors association said.

Condominium sales increased 24 percent from July 2012, while the median price rose to $314,500 from the $300,000, a 4.8 percent increase, according to the realtors.

Megan Woolhouse can be reached at megan.woolhouse
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