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Home sales in Boston slide slightly in January

Due to a combination of dwindling inventory and unabated price growth, January home sales in New England's most populous city slid somewhat, newly released data shows, but the numbers nevertheless impressed given the limited choices buyers had available to them.

A total of 828 single-family detached properties were purchased in 2017's inaugural month in the Boston area, according to the Greater Boston Association of Realtors. That's down roughly 2 percent from the same period last year, when 843 home sales were recorded, and marks the second straight instance in which sales fell from the previous month.

That being said, it's a wonder real estate purchases were still robust, as supply levels have dipped dramatically in the Greater Boston area. With just under 1,750 listings available in January, the total was down close to 37 percent from January 2016, GBAR reported. Condo availability was similarly limited, falling almost 30 percent, with 1,218 active listings when the month began.

"Even as inventory continues to drop and prices rise, the steady stream of buyer activity has been remarkable the past couple of months," said Melody Skye Roloff, GBAR president. "Buyers have largely been unfazed by the upward pressure on housing costs as indicated by the high sales numbers in both markets. Again last month, the sales totals were among the highest on record which reflects the strong desire for homeownership among millennials and others."

Median in Boston nearly double that of nation's
For nearly 60 consecutive months, asking prices have climbed on a year-over-year basis across the country. In January, the national median was $228,900, according to the National Association of Realtors, a 7 percent increase from one year earlier. In Massachusetts' capital city, the median rose 6 percent to a new all-time high of $520,000 from $490,000 last January. The asking value for condominiums also reached a record, now costing buyers a median of $443,250, a nearly 13 percent higher price point than the corresponding period in 2016.

Roloff noted that the Boston area is undoubtedly in sellers' market territory.

"Per usual, the record-high median sales prices are matched by the short supply, which last month hit an all-time monthly low for January," Roloff explained. "With those figures continuing to seemingly work in tandem, along with the steady sales we've seen, it is an excellent time for homeowners to list their homes for sale."

Not only are there fewer for-sale homes to choose from, but they're being snapped up much more quickly. The average listing remained on the market for 72 days in January, according to GBAR, down from 77 days this time last year. Condos were bought at an even faster pace, at 49 days from 54.

Sales up 5 percent statewide
In Massachusetts as a whole, home sales were similarly strong, despite the state's own supply-side issues. Sales activity statewide rose 5 percent in January, according to the Warren Group, with the median single-family home price also climbing to $342,500, a 7 percent increase year over year.

Timothy Warren, CEO of the Warren Group, made mention of the fact that the median percentage increase on a monthly basis was the most substantial observed since 2014.

"The real estate market in Massachusetts continues its steady climb to surpass all previous peaks," Warren added.

The Bay State wasn't the only part of New England that saw an uptick in prospective buyers entering the market and who made good on their intentions. The same was true in Rhode Island, where single-family home sales jumped nearly 8.5 percent, the Warren Group reported. It's the 20th month in a row sales have climbed on a yearly basis.

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