In another plus for the state’s housing market, sales of single-family houses rose in April for the fourth consecutive month, according to a new report Thursday, raising hopes that the spring home buying season will have some staying power.
Statewide sales surged 25 percent in April to 1,946, from 1,550 for the same month a year ago, spurred on by low mortgage rates and an improving job market. The levels are still modest compared to the 3,000 to 4,000 in sales that were routine in the hot market that preceded the most recent recession, but could be forming the foundation of a recovery.
“It looks like the months ahead will continue to be positive as the strong spring and summer market heats up,” Timothy J. Warren, Warren Group’s chief executive, said.
The key piece still missing is an overall upswing in prices, which remain weak. In April, the median sale price — where half the sales are above, half below — fell 5.5 percent to $226,000 from $240,000 a year ago, the Warren Group data show.
Typically, a housing recovery first begins with a pick-up in sales and then prices follow.
Through the first four months of this year, the median sale price is down 5.6 percent. For all of 2011, the median price declined 2.9 percent.
“I’m hopeful that the gains in sales volume will eventually reverse the downward trend with prices,” Warren said, “but we haven’t seen evidence of that yet.”
While the median is a well-watched indicator of housing values, it does not necessarily mean that all properties are declining by that amount or even declining at all. Values can vary widely from town to town or even neighborhood to neighborhood. Location and updates also play a vital role in property values.
Nevertheless, prices tracked through sales may be held back, in part, by foreclosure sales, which sell at a discount.
In a separate report Thursday, RealtyTrac, which tracks and markets foreclosed properties, found that 12 percent of all residential sales in Connecticut in the first three months of this year were foreclosure sales. The average foreclosure sale price was $171,324, a 39-percent discount to the average non-foreclosure sale for the same period.
Connecticut’s foreclosure sales, however, were still below the nation, which saw 26 percent of residential sales coming at some stage of foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac.
High levels of residential properties for sale also are keeping prices down, with some sellers either accepting lower than asking prices or dropping their prices to attract more buyer interest.
In Greater Hartford, for example, there was a 10-month supply of single-family houses for sale in April, based on sales tracked by the Greater Hartford Association of Realtors. That’s still firmly planted in a buyer’s market.
A six-month supply is considered a healthy market, favoring neither buyer nor seller. In the hot market of the mid-2000s, a two- or three-month supply was not uncommon.
Single-family house sales rose in all of the state’s eight counties in April. Tolland County led the way with a 133 percent increase, though its volume was modest, rising to 91 in April from 39 a year ago, according to the Warren Group.
Two counties — Middlesex and New London — saw increases in the median sale price. New London saw the biggest jump, at 15 percent, rising to $234,750 from $203,500, on a nearly 18 percent increase in sales.
In Hartford County, the median sale price in April fell 7 percent, to $202,000, from $217,500 for the same month a year ago. Sales surged nearly 42 percent, to 520, from 367 a year ago.
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