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March 22. 2012 9:21PM

NH home sales up; median prices drop

CONCORD — Home sales in the Granite State were up 13 percent in February from last year, and median prices dropped about 3 percent from the monthly mark in 2011, according to the New Hampshire Association of Realtors.

Realtors reported 661 residential sales last month, compared to 585 in February 2011 — the third consecutive year to see a February increase and the most February sales since 2007.

The median price statewide for home sales fell from $185,000 in February 2011 to $179,900 in February 2012, NHAR said in a news release. While a handful of counties saw an increase in home prices, the hike was not enough to alter the overall direction of median prices statewide.

Across New England, New Hampshire recorded the second lowest price drop, according to a separate report from RE/MAX of New England. RE/MAX said Massachusetts's 2.2 percent price decrease (from $254,500 to $249,000) led New England states during February. The Bay State's 24.1 percent unit sales increase was third to Rhode Island's 38.4 percent home sales advance and Maine's 24.6 percent decrease of homes sold.

Rhode Island recorded a 14.6 percent median price decrease, from $205,000 to $175,000, the second highest price drop in the six states, behind Vermont's 15.4 percent February price decrease from 2011 ($195,000 to $165,000), according to RE/MAX.

Connecticut was the only New England state to record a unit-sale dropoff during February, according to RE/MAX, down 0.3 percent.

For 2012 so far, unit sales are ahead of last year's pace by 16 percent, NHAR said.

The median price for the first two months of the year is down 6 percent in New Hampshire.

“We still have more inventory than you'd find in a balanced market, and that's continuing to keep prices down,” said John Rice, NHAR president, an agent with Tate & Foss Sotheby's International Realty in Rye.

“As sales increase and inventory decreases, we'll gradually move out of this decidedly buyer-friendly market,” Rice said in the news release.

“We're still in the early stages of that process.”

All but one of the state's 10 counties saw unit sales increase in February compared to a year ago, including a 23 percent jump in Hillsborough, the state's largest county.

And despite the overall February decrease in median price, six of the 10 counties saw increases, including a 5 percent uptick in Hillsborough County, from $190,000 in 2011 to $200,000 in 2012.


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