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October 14. 2012 6:21PM

Realtors: It's a buyer's market in Lakes Region


This three-bedroom Gilford home, listed by Roche Realty Group Inc. for $1,295,000, features one of the largest boat houses on Lake Winnipesaukee and has 170 feet of shore-front. (COURTESY)

LACONIA — With the median price for a house on Lake Winnipesaukee at $1.2 million and going for about $200,000 less than this time last year, it is a buyer's market out there with choices, choices, choices.

Russ Thibeault of Applied Economic Research in Laconia said in 40 years, he has never seen a better time to buy in the region.

Frank Roche of Roche Realty Group of Meredith and Laconia said he has been practicing 36 years, and this is one of the top two times to buy. The last was 1991.

He recalls in 1980 and 1981 when he was quoting interest rates at 17 and 18 percent “and that was adjustable. You couldn't get a fixed rate. ... Today you have 40-year record low interest rates below at about 3.6 percent, and price reductions from 20 to 30 percent ... even more if it is a short sale,” he said.

“Add to that, we have the best inventory of 1,340 listings in the Lakes Region, and that represents an opportunity for savvy buyers. There are a lot of anxious sellers, too,” Roche said.

On Lake Winnipesaukee, there are 245 houses on the market.

Sales off the lake have picked up across the region, with a 16- to 18-month inventory, but the market that has traditionally done the best, lakefront, now has a five-year inventory on the market.

Thibeault said 129 houses have sold on the big lake in the last year, with a median selling price of $900,000. Last year, that figure was $1.1 million.

“Housing is affordable, but it's not moving,” Thibeault said.

“It's cheaper to own than rent, but it's hard to qualify. A person buying a $200,000 home, which is the average price in New Hampshire, has to have $40,000 to plunk down, and few do have that right now,” he said. “If you can qualify, it's great.”

“For sellers, things have stabilized” in terms of price reductions, but Thibeault said he has not seen market trends increasing in price yet.

There are now 60 homes on the big lake on the market for more than $2 million and 13 sales of more than $2 million in the last year, Thibeault said.

The sale price for lakefront ranges from $160,000 to $10 million on Governor's Island.

Thibeault said many buyers, even if they can meet the terms for a mortgage, lack confidence in the economy.

Roche said where he is seeing the market moving toward is baby boomers who are thinking about retirement and are selling homes in the South and moving to places for recreation and cultural opportunities.

“Water access is selling, too,” he said. “You can get a house with water access in the $125,000 price range and buy condos for $80,000.”

Roche agreed with Thibeault that the market overall seems to be getting better.

And Mitt Romney had an impact on Wolfeboro this summer, Roche said, because of the publicity as the sometime-home of the Republican presidential nominee.

“We've had calls as a result,” he said of what he called the “Romney factor.”

ptracy@unionleader.com


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