BOSTON (SHNS) – As Gov. Maura Healey and her team rolled out her plan to move the needle on housing production and ease housing hardships with outside-the-box policies, people looking to buy a home in Massachusetts faced much of the same in October: the thinnest inventory in more than a decade, record high prices and expensive borrowing costs.
There were 3,515 single-family homes sold in Massachusetts last month, down 16.9 percent from October 2022’s 4,228 sales and the fewest number of single-family home sales for any October since 2011, The Warren Group said in its first look at monthly real estate data since Healey filed her policy-heavy $4.1 billion housing bond bill on Oct. 18.
With the options for prospective homebuyers relatively few and far between, the median sale price for a single-family home jumped 10.6 percent year-over-year to $575,140, The Warren Group said. Like September’s $565,000 median sale price, October’s mark set a new all-time high for the month.
“Home sale prices in October climbed to the highest they’ve ever been during this time of year,” Cassidy Norton, associate publisher and media relations director at The Warren Group, said. “Inventory is far below historical norms, and limited choices make it more difficult to find a home. And record high prices paired with rising interest rates make the task of buying a home that much more formidable.”
Through October, there had been 34,515 single-family homes sold in Massachusetts this year. That represents a 23.9 percent decline from the first 10 months of 2022. The year-to-date median sale price is up 3.6 percent from last year, at $570,000, The Warren Group said.
Potential homeowners are running out of options in Massachusetts, the group said in its October analysis. Last month’s 1,562 condominium sales marked a 9.4 percent decrease from a year ago while the median sale price climbed 4.4 percent to $500,000. Year-to-date, condo sales are down 19.7 percent and the median price is up 4.9 percent to $515,500.
“Massachusetts condo prices soared to a record high in October, setting a new benchmark. Condos previously offered a more affordable purchase option; arguably, at just $75,000 less than a single-family home, those times are over,” Norton said.
High-interest rates are affecting would-be homebuyers and potential sellers. With rates as high as they are now, some prospective buyers have to limit their options because it is far more expensive to borrow money than it was two years ago. And people who are locked in at a much lower mortgage rate are less likely to give that up by making their homes available for sale.
As of Thursday, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 7.44 percent APR, according to data compiled by Freddie Mac. A year ago, the average interest rate was 6.61 percent, and two years ago it was 3.10 percent, Freddie Mac said.
Healey and Housing Secretary Ed Augustus have hit the road over the last month to tout the five-year, $4.12 billion housing bond bill that they think will help to ease the housing crunch that threatens the state’s continued development and its competitive standing with other states. In Attleboro last month, Augustus said that 1.6 percent of housing units across Massachusetts were available for sale or rent, calling it the lowest vacancy rate of all 50 states.
“A healthy housing ecosystem should have a 4 to 5 percent vacancy rate at any given time, which empowers a consumer to be able to get a rental unit or to make a reasonable offer on purchasing a home,” he said. “How many people here have a family member or experienced themselves or know somebody they’ve worked with who’ve had to make multiple over-asking offers and then still come away not having the opportunity of homeownership? That is what that low vacancy rate represents to real people.”
He added, “And those people increasingly are saying, ‘Well, I guess that homeownership isn’t an opportunity for me here in Massachusetts. I’m looking elsewhere.’ And the governor was very clear and very specific: We can’t let that happen any longer.”
Healey has tried to attach a level of urgency to her bill (H 4138), suggesting it will be a missed production opportunity if the policies in her bill are not law before the spring construction season gets underway.
But the bill is now in the hands of a Legislature that has struggled to make quick decisions, meet its own deadlines, and seldom reaches agreement on anything of consequence without taking it to, and sometimes beyond, the brink. Healey’s housing bill has not moved since it was sent to the Housing Committee on Oct. 18 and the Legislature is in a seven-week stretch of limited activity.
In Attleboro last month, the governor said she needed help from local officials and supporters “to get it done and get it done quickly.”
“Housing construction starts will start in the spring or not, right? So we’ve got to get this going and get this going now,” Healey said.