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The Boston Globe

Business

Low inventory of homes hurting market in Mass.

Massachusetts home prices rose in January as buyers scrambled to purchase the comparatively few houses for sale on the market, the Warren Group reported Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the number of single-family homes sold rose in January after the two previous months posted “modest decreases,” added the Warren Group, a Boston-based firm that tracks local real estate data.

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In January, the median sale price of a single-family home in Massachusetts increased 12.5 percent to $315,000, and the median condo price for a Bay State condo jumped 24 percent to $300,000, the highest January median price for condos since the Warren Group began tracking median condo price data in 1987. This is the seventh time in the past 12 months that median prices for single-family homes have gone up by double digits, and the January 2014 median is the highest median price for homes in January since 2008, the Warren Group said.

“After ending 2013 on a mini slump for housing sales, these are impressive numbers for the middle of winter,” Warren Group chief executive Timothy M. Warren Jr. said in a statement. “Still, low inventory continues to plague the market. The market needs more sellers to list their homes for sale in order to keep the rally in real estate moving ahead.”

On a volume basis, the number of single-family home sales in Massachusetts was 2,728 in January, up 5 percent on a year-to-year comparison basis, and reaching the highest number of sales recorded for the month since 2007. There were 1,144 Bay State condos sold last month, a 16.6 percent increase from a year ago.

“Because we experienced a seven-year slump in the real estate market there is pent-up demand for homes to purchase,” Timothy Warren said. “The lack of homes available to purchase is causing prices to grow at these double-digit rates. Buyers are hoping that the spring market will bring many more homes for sale and provide more choice.”

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors issued a separate monthly report on the local housing market. The association uses a somewhat different method to track sales than the Warren Group does.

The inventory of single-family homes as of Jan. 31, 2014 decreased 20.4 percent from January 2013, the association’s report noted.

In a statement, association president Peter Ruffini said: “The continued combination of buyer demand and a shortage of inventory resulted in prices rising in January. Buyer demand also drove sales up, which puts emphasis on the need for more home sellers to enter the market. Rising prices mean more equity for homeowners and therefore a greater number may be in a better position to sell.” 

Also released Tuesday morning was the latest reading for the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which track repeat home sales around the United States.

In December, home values in the Boston area rose 0.6 percent from values in November on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to this benchmark. December’s Boston-area values were up nearly 10 percent on a year-to-year comparison basis.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.

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