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Northeast Home Sales Soar



Northeast home sales soar 25 percent in October 2009

J.W. ELPHINSTONE

The Associated Press

NEW YORK -Home sales in the Northeast soared in October as first-time buyers clamored to close deals before the expiration of a federal tax credit.

The nine-state region registered 85,000 home resales last month, up 25 percent from a year ago when the financial crisis gripped the country, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. The median price, however, fell about 3 percent to $235,400.

Nationally, sales of existing homes jumped almost 21 percent from October last year, without adjusting for seasonal factors. The median sales price tumbled 7 percent to $173,100.

The surge in sales came as many first-time homebuyers rushed to qualify for an $8,000 tax credit that was scheduled to expire at the end of this month before Congress extended it through April.

Buyers who have owned their current homes for at least five years are eligible for a tax credit of up to $6,500, while first-time homebuyers , or anyone who hasn't owned a home in the last three years , can still get up to $8,000.

"The only reason we're seeing good numbers is because of government policies that are propping the market up," said Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global Insight. "Housing is still fundamentally weak."

All nine major Northeast cities tracked in the Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report showed annual increases in home sales last month. The report, also released Monday, analyzed sales transactions in the metropolitan statistical areas recorded by all real estate agents, regardless of company affiliation.

Here are some highlights from the region:

,Biggest sales gain: Trenton, N.J., saw sales climb by 45 percent from a year ago. Prices there continue to fall, tumbling 11 percent year-over-year to $231,500.

Lower-priced homes between $150,000 to $350,000, are leading the brisk sales, said T. Christopher Hill, an agent with Re/Max TriCounty in Hamilton Township, N.J., thanks in large part to the first-time homebuyer tax credit.

"I hope the extended credit has a domino effect and drives up the move-up market," he said.

As for November? Hill predicts a strong sales month, but the numbers won't be as high as September and October.

, Smallest sales gain: Sales in the New York City suburbs increased 5 percent in October, while the median price lost 3 percent to $385,000.

Despite lagging in the region, the performance was a step up for the area which has been battered by job losses in the financial sector.

Similar to other metros, the lower priced homes, those below $400,000, are selling the quickest, with many receiving multiple offers, said Kevin O'Shea, an agent with Homes of Westchester.

"We're having a fairly busy November," he said. "There are a decent number of closings and a decent number of people still looking around."

,Biggest price gain: For October, Pittsburgh prices inched up 2 percent from a year ago to $118,000, the only price increase in the region. Sales there rose almost 11 percent.

"We weren't invited to the party, so we don't have a hangover," said Dan Kite of Northwood Realty Services, explaining the relative stability of Pittsburgh's home prices.

Sales there continue to outpace last year, he said, and he expects the market to get into "high gear" after the holidays as more buyers and sellers capitalize on the expanded tax credit.

,Biggest price decline: Manchester, N.H., recorded the worst price decline in the region. The median home price fell more than 12 percent to $202,000, but sales there jumped almost 17 percent year-over-year.

"I'm busy like crazy," said Nancy Philbrick, a real estate agent with Prudential Verani Realty in New Hampshire. "Prices are low, rates are low. I hope buyers remember that after the credit expires next year."

,Inventory highlight: The number of unsold homes dropped in every Northeast city in October. Manchester, N.H., and Boston led the way with a drop of 26 percent and 23 percent, respectively. A recovery in home prices won't be sustained until the supply of homes on the market falls further.

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