New Hampshire home sales plunged in May

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Home sales cratered in May thanks to fewer homes on the market and more caution by sellers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Statewide sales dropped 24.8%, with new home listings down 31% and homes for sale plunging by 40% over a year earlier, according to figures from the New Hampshire Association of Realtors.

"The state had this incredible shortage of inventory, the small number of homes on the market have continued to sell at a very high rate, and would-be sellers are waiting until they're more comfortable putting their homes on the market," said Dave Cummings, communications director for the state Realtors association. "So the math becomes pretty simple from there: You can't buy what's not for sale."

Statewide, there were 924 fewer new listings and more than 2,000 fewer homes on the market than a year earlier.

"It's a classic supply-demand squeeze," said Greg Powers, a Realtor with Keller Williams Metropolitan Realty in Bedford. "Sellers have been hesitant to go on the market. The number of buyers is still pretty strong."

Powers was the listing agent for a three-bedroom ranch in Rochester that went on the market May 28 for $179,900.

The 912-square-foot home drew tremendous interest because of the price point and the fact it was just renovated, Powers said.

The house attracted 22 offers and was put under contract for $197,000 on June 1. The deal closed Tuesday.

New Hampshire Realtors asked members how the coronavirus affected their business in the prior two weeks.

In their April 7 survey, nearly two-thirds reported at least one seller postponed bringing a new listing to the market and 69% said at least one buyer delayed a search.

On May 26, 44% reported seller postponements and 40% reported buyer delays.

Along the Seacoast, home sales were down by 42% in May compared with a year ago.

"The pandemic wreaked havoc with Seacoast May residential real estate closings in the 13 sample Seacoast towns, but the report is hardly all doom and gloom," wrote John Rice, statistician for the Seacoast Board of Realtors.

He said pending Seacoast sales in May were solid "and a harbinger of a strong June to come."

Statewide figures show pending sales statewide grew nearly 1%, offering optimism for June.

"I think it's a relatively healthy market," said Rice, an associate broker at Tate & Foss Sotheby's International Realty in Rye. The May drop in sales is "a combination of COVID and a lack of inventory."

On the Seacoast, the lack of homes for sale continues to be a problem with 233 active listings last month compared with 314 in May 2019 and 817 in May 2011.

The median Seacoast price in May stood at $510,000, or $5,000 lower than a year earlier.

Statewide, the median sales price remained healthy at $319,900, nearly $20,000 higher than in May 2019.

For people buying a home, interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a U.S. weekly average of 3.18% as of last Thursday. Rates peaked at 4.94% in November 2018, according to Freddie Mac, a company that buys mortgages and repackages them to investors.

"As the economy is slowly rebounding, all signs continue to point to a solid recovery in home sales activity heading into the summer as prospective buyers jump back into the market," Freddie Mac said on its website listing its interest rates.

"Low mortgage rates are a key factor in this recovery," Freddie Mac said. "While homebuyer demand is up and has been broad-based across most geographies, supply has been slower to improve. In fact, the gap between supply and demand has widened even further than the large gap that existed prior to the pandemic."

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