The region’s formerly frenzied housing market continued to mellow out in October, with sales volume falling and prices basically flat.
That’s according to figures released Tuesday by the Greater Boston Association of Realtors, which covers 64 cities and towns in Eastern Massachusetts. It found prices for single-family homes didn’t increase much compared with the same time last year — with a median price of $700,000 — and were down from record highs hit in summer. Condominium prices, too, have begun to sag, hitting $609,500 for the month, which was 6 percent ahead of last year but lower than in September.
Essentially, the market overheated during a surge of pent-up and pandemic-fueled buying last fall and this past spring, said GBAR president Dino Confalone, an agent with Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Cambridge. By some measures, prices climbed at their fastest pace on record. That eventually prompted some prospective buyers to back away, cooled off bidding wars, and restored some sense of balance to a market that for a while had lost it.
“After a year-and-a-half of ups and downs, it’s starting to feel like a more normal market,” Confalone said. “We are seeing more hesitation on the part of buyers... and even a retreat from the market in the past few weeks by those who have been priced out or grown tired and frustrated over missing out on several properties in multiple offer situations.”
Sales volume, too, is down compared with last year — though that’s in part because COVID-19 delayed normal buying activity in 2020 by a few months. The number of single-family homes sold in October was comparable to other recent years before the pandemic, while condo-buying was up. Either way, inventory remains tight, with active listings low by historic standards and down sharply from this time last year. That means true deals remain hard to come by, even if prices have stopped climbing.
“Most properties are being bought close to or above their asking price,” Confalone said. “Sellers still hold the upper hand in today’s market, but just a little less so than they did earlier in the year.”
How long this cooler phase will be is unclear. The Boston-area housing market typically slows down in winter, with fewer listings and sales, before coming back in the spring. Demand could surge again, especially if workers settle back into offices and more normal patterns of commuting and child care. Some forecasters, however, expect mortgage interest rates, which have hovered at or below 3 percent for about 18 months, to start climbing again next year. That could crimp the borrowing power of would-be buyers and put a lid on price growth.
Tim Logan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.