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Massachusetts home sales slow, but prices on rise

Massachusetts home sales slowed in March while prices kept going up, prompted by a shortage of properties on the market, numbers released Tuesday show.

Statewide, 3,100 single-family homes were bought last month, a 3.6 percent decline compared with the same time in 2012, according to Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks real estate.

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For the first three months of the year, sales fell 2.1 percent, to 7,849, compared with the first quarter last year, Warren Group said.

Condominium sales also dropped off in March, by 2 percent to 1,211. Sales for the first quarter declined about 1 percent, compared with the first three months of 2012.

At the same time, buyers were having to pay more.

The median price for a single-family house rose to $285,000 in March, 8 percent higher than during that month last year.

During the first quarter, the median value of a home swelled by 10.6 percent to $282,500, compared with the first three months of 2012, according to Warren Group.

Condo prices rose less dramatically to $261,000 in March, by 1.5 percent. For the first three months of 2013, the median price of a condo hit $250,000, a 1.6 percent increase from the year-earlier period.

The data illustrate what many in the real estate industry know too well: There are not enough homes for sale to meet the demand of buyers, who are motivated by low interest rates, rising prices, and an improving economy.

The inventory of single-family homes eroded by 29.8 percent in March, compared with March 2012, marking the 12th consecutive month of decreases, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which also released data Tuesday.

Inventory for condos fell 34 percent in March, compared with that month in 2012.

“Low inventory is plaguing housing markets all over the country, and Massachusetts is no exception,’’ said David Harris, editorial director of Warren Group.

“There is definitely concern that such steep price spikes will cause an affordability issue,” he said.

Kimberly Allard-Moccia, the broker-owner of Century 21 Professionals in Braintree and president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, said she is happy that so many people are interested in buying a home.

But she wishes more sellers would embrace that optimism about the housing market and list their properties.

“A good supply of homes for sale is the only thing we’re missing from a sustainable housing recovery,’’ said Allard-Moccia.

Jenifer B. McKim
can be reached at
jmckim@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jbmckim.
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