Brokers see some hope in dreay real estate report
A pair of reports released Monday added to the already dim picture that's been painted of the Massachusetts real estate market, but some brokers said the case for the real-estate bust may be overstated.
Thee reports - one conducted by the Warren Group, the other by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors - suggest the Massachusetts real-estate market is still in the grip of a major downturn.
The Warren Group report found the number of home sales in March dropped by 32 percent, while the median single-family home price dipped by nearly 11 percent.
The MAR report produced similar findings, with single-family home sales and condominium sales dropping by 28.3 percent and 35.6 percent, respectively.
But while those statistics may paint an accurate state-wide picture, MetroWest and Milford-area real-estate brokers emphasized that the portrait isn't universal.
"Look at the local level, (and) none of that is correct,'' said John Ellsworth, owner of the Homes Connection of MetroWest in Ashland.
Ellsworth's company focuses on four MetroWest towns, Framingham, Ashland, Hopkinton and Holliston, all of which - with the exception of Framingham -
have seen the number of buyers explode in recent months.
"It's my opinion ... we turned around, at least in Ashland, Hopkinton and Holliston, last August and September,'' he said. "I think we've flattened, and I think it'll be slow growth from this point.''
"The bottom hasn't come, the sky hasn't fallen,'' said Joanne Mullowney, manager and vice president of Prudential Town and Country Real Estate in Natick. "Have prices adjusted? Absolutely. But they haven't gone to the bottom of the barrel like people thought they would.''
In the area she covers, Mullowney said, sales in recent months have been as strong as she's ever seen.
In the first three months of this year, she said, the agency put nearly 35 properties, ranging in price from just under $200,000 to more than $1 million, in Natick under agreement.
In Wellesley, the numbers are even more dramatic.
At least 75 properties were under agreement in the first quarter of the year, she said, with prices that ran as high as $5.3 million.
One Wellesley property, with an asking price of more than $900,000, received nine offers, she said.
"I had the best year I've ever had last year, and I've been in this business 18 years,'' she said. "People are seeing the value and are knowing things aren't going to get as bad as people have told us.''
Not everywhere, though, is the news rosy.
While she maintains the buyers are out there, Century 21 The Real Estate Group owner and broker Joan Fantini admitted prices have dropped in recent months.
Convincing sellers to accept those price dips, however, can be trickier.
"You can use all the gimmicks you want, but pricing the property to the market is what makes it sell,'' the Bellingham-based broker said. "The seller may not like that, but, in fact, that's what the market is bearing. If the buyers are educated, they're not going to be paying for overpriced properties.''
Does that mean the region is beginning to break out of the real-estate doldrums?
"I would say it depends upon the property and it depends upon what town,'' Fantini said. "Some sellers are still not dealing with the reality of price adjustment. The buyers are there, they're just waiting for the sellers to come to the more realistic viewpoint.''
While the adage may be that all politics is local, the same applies to real estate, Hughes and Hughes Real Estate Company owner Ralph Miller said.
"Every market area is different, no question about it,'' he said, when asked if the downturn was ending. "All real estate is local. If you go to the city, the city is booming. The monied towns are doing really well.
"I think we've plateaued. I don't think you're going to see any appreciation this year.''
Peter Reuell can be reached at 508-626-4428, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
MetroWest Daily News