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As the spring housing market nears, there’s little to buy around Boston

Sales are down as prices start to level off after 18 torrid months of increases.

This home was found up for sale in Newton last month.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Falling inventory and rising interest rates have combined to slow the region’s housing market this winter, with sales dropping and meteoric price growth showing signs of reaching a plateau.

That’s according to figures out Tuesday from the Greater Boston Association of Realtors, which tracks sales in 64 cities and towns in Eastern Massachusetts. It found that the number of single-family homes sold in the region fell 15 percent in January, compared with the same month last year, while condominium sales dipped 7 percent.

Prices climbed — again to record levels — but at a somewhat slower pace than in recent months, with the median single-family home price up 7.4 percent to $725,000 while the median condo price climbed just 1 percent to $595,000.


It’s a sign that prices, which have shot up since the housing market re-opened in the spring of 2020, may finally have grown too rich for local buyers, especially when coupled with mortgage interest rates that — while still low by historic standards — have jumped on average six-tenths of a point since late December according to national surveys. The combination has eroded purchasing power for many.

“It’s unclear if prices have reached their ceiling, but we’ve certainly seen more buyers pumping the brakes, rather than overextend themselves financially,” said GBAR president Melvin Vieira Jr., an agent at RE/MAX Destiny in Cambridge. “A steady rise in interest rates this year could also stifle market activity and limit how much home one can buy.”

Still, the biggest hurdle for Boston-area homebuyers is a longstanding one: There’s just not much on the market.

January is typically one of the slowest months of the year in Boston’s housing market but even so, the number of single-family listings was down 35 percent from January 2021, and new listings were off by 15 percent. Some would-be buyers, in turn, put off their winter house-hunting to see if there’s more on offer in the spring.


“We’ve got very little to sell. In some communities, you can count on one or two hands the number of properties available for sale over the past month,” Vieira said. “The lack of listings remains the biggest drag on sales right now.”

Now, Vieira and other real estate watchers will look to the spring, usually prime season for home sales here. GBAR said new listings have picked up speed in the first two weeks of February, as sellers ready their homes for the market. Vieira said he expects buyers will get an early start, too, as interest rates are projected to go nowhere but up.

“If the past few weeks are any indication,” he said, “We’re in for another active spring market.”

Tim Logan can be reached at timothy.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.