The state’s housing market wrapped up the summer the same way it started: Tight and expensive. But there are signs in some parts of the market that things may be topping out.
Prices for single-family homes in Greater Boston climbed again in August, with the median hitting a record high for the month of $640,000. Condominium prices dipped slightly compared with last year but remain near record levels, with a median price of $565,000.
That’s according to data published Wednesday by the Greater Boston Association of Realtors, which said the number of sales of both houses and condos in August fell 5 percent compared with the same month last year. It’s a sign of tight supply — which has been the case for the last few years — and shows that would-be buyers are holding back in the face of growing economic uncertainty, said GBAR president Jim Major, an agent with Century 21 North East in Woburn.
“We are starting to see more buyers act with less urgency and exercise more caution before making an offer to purchase,” he said. “With home prices moderating and mortgage rates steady, buyers aren’t feeling pressured to make as quick a decision to buy as they did last spring or a year ago.”
That means houses are taking longer to sell, and when they do, they’re more likely to sell below listing price than they did a year ago. Also, the number of homes on the market, particularly condominiums, is up. The market is still healthy, Major said, but it’s easier on buyers than it used to be.
“We’re seeing a number of communities in Greater Boston wherein home prices have either peaked or begun to decline,” he said. “After experiencing a strong sellers’ market for the past three years, we are now seeing the beginnings of a more balanced market between supply and demand.”
How long this might last is anyone’s guess.
The housing market showed signs of cooling off last fall, too, before interest rates fell and demand took off again in the spring. Statewide, supply and demand remain out of balance and the fundamentals of Massachusetts’ economy remain healthy, which will continue to drive demand, said Tim Warren, CEO of real estate data firm The Warren Group.
“Everyone is trying to figure out if this is a sign of a slowing market or simply a lack of inventory,” he said. “I’m betting on a strong local economy and job growth to keep housing hot for another year.”