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As snow retreats, home market wakes from hibernation

The spring real estate market is now in high gear. It is being welcomed with open arms by sellers, buyers, and realtors alike.

After an unusually slow fall, the year started off with a lot of buyer activity, and some homes that did not sell in autumn ended up going under contract in early January. The mild weather obviously helped this as well. Pending home sales from Jan. 1 to Jan. 15 were up more than 14 percent compared with January 2014.

Then, on Jan. 26, the first of several snowstorms hit, and the market came to a grinding halt.

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In February, the number of homes listed was down 34 percent compared with February 2014, which was actually a slow month for listing homes compared with that same time period in 2013. Pending home sales were down almost 10 percent compared with February 2014. As a result, March home sales will be down dramatically. I would not be surprised if overall home sales are down as much as 10 percent in March.

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The good news is it is now April, and the market is in full swing. March was a lot like a typical February, with the market getting into gear. Although instead of this happening in February, it got pushed to March due to the snow. Buyers were out in force right at the beginning of the month, but sellers were actually even slower than usual about listing.

Every year a certain percentage of sellers want to wait until the snow clears before they list their homes. Ice dams and excessive snow piles delayed home sellers even more. This left the inventory disproportionately low, inciting bidding wars. It has been a frustrating time for buyers, who in many cases were unable to secure the homes they wanted. The sellers who listed in March were smart to take advantage of this low inventory.

The good news is that the number of listings is increasing, and by the middle of May, we should be in a more balanced market instead of the strong sellers’ one we have seen over the past six weeks.

My advice to buyers is to have patience. If you don’t win a bidding war and are unable to land the house you want, there probably will be another that comes along and catches your eye. It’s a “there are other fish in the sea” kind of thing.

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Sellers, this frenzy will not last forever, so list your home as soon as you can. Every day, more properties are coming on the market, increasing the supply and decreasing the demand.

Sellers also need to resist the temptation to overprice their homes. Even in March, at the beginning of the frenzy, there were homes that did not sell because they were overpriced. Today’s buyers are better educated than ever about the market and have access to more information. You’re not going to fool them.

This is the beginning of what will be a big year for real estate. I believe it will be the biggest for overall home sales since 2005, when roughly 81,000 sold in Massachusetts. The biggest year since then was 2013, with 71,000 homes sold.

Despite the low inventory, I think we will come in somewhere in between. The decreased sales in March and April due to the snow will be made up for in the months to come.

Anthony Lamacchia is the broker and owner of McGeough Lamacchia Realty, which is based in Waltham. For more information on listing your home in the winter, go to www.MLRealtyNE.com.