BOSTON — The year-end median sale price for single-family homes on the North Shore reached record levels last year as low inventories continued to push prices higher, according to The Warren Group, the Boston real estate tracker.
Every community but one in the region covered by The Item, saw year-over-year median prices rise in 2018 from 3 percent in Lynnfield to a whopping 13 percent in Revere.
“If you want to boil it down, it’s supply and demand,” said Patrick Maguire, the northern regional representative for the Massachusetts Association of Realtors and an agent at Re/Max Advantage Real Estate.
Realtors say most communities have about a dozen single-family homes or fewer for sale in the median price range. In boom years, brokers say, buyers have had more than 100 homes from which to choose.
“Last spring, 100 buyers showed up at a weekend open house and there would be as many as 15 offers on Monday,” said Maguire. “Those buyers competed against each other, not the home’s market price, or even against the seller in negotiations.”
The biggest winners were sellers in Saugus which saw sales rise by 10 percent and the median price reach $435,000, up 6 percent from a year ago, and Swampscott where the number of single-family home sales swelled by 17 percent while the median price increased by 11 percent to $577,750.
Stephanie Moio, a vice president at J Barrett & Co., said Swampscott has always been attractive to buyers because it’s an oceanfront community near Boston with a commuter rail stop. Competition for homes and multiple offers in Salem and Marblehead, she said, have led buyers to discover Swampscott.
“That drove prices and sales up here,” she said.
Lynn, Marblehead, Peabody, and Revere had a few things in common which defied logic: sales fell, while prices rose.
In Lynn, single-family home sales tumbled by 3.5 percent to 656, down from 680 in 2017 while the median price increased by nearly 8 percent to $345,000.
Marblehead saw sales slip to 239 last year from 251 in 2017, a 5 percent drop as median prices took off to $689,000, a 6 percent hike.
Through December, the number of single-family home sales in Peabody slipped to 418, down from 459 in 2017, a 9 percent drop. While sales fell, the median prices rose by 8 percent to $433,000 last year.
In Revere, sales dropped by 13 percent to 200, down from 231 in 2017. But while sales slipped, median prices soared by 13 percent to $425,000, up from $375,000 last year.
Lynnfield had the same number of home sales last year as in 2017 but median prices swelled to $661,750, up from $642,500 in 2017, a 3 percent hike.
The number of single-family homes sold in Nahant rose to 46, up from 34 two years ago as the median price fell by 3.5 percent to $530,000.
That drop comes as scientists from Columbia University and First Street Foundation, a New York nonprofit that studies sea levels and flooding impacts, found that increased tidal flooding caused by sea level rise has eroded $10.1 million in home values in Nahant between 2005 and 2017, the fourth biggest loss in waterfront community home values in Massachusetts.
Maguire said prices have been steadily rising from the low prices of the crash of 2008 through 2011 to what we’re seeing today.
“Buyers are very secure in their jobs and their income is enough to qualify, especially with low mortgage interest rates,” he said. “The alternative is to rent and wonder if you’ll ever be able to save the 3 percent or more to put down on a home or condo.”
Statewide, the median price rose 5.5 percent to $385,000, an all-time high for any calendar year, The Warren Group reported. During 2018, single-family home sales declined 1.5 percent compared to 2017 with 59,801 transactions. This is the first time in three years that year-end sales failed to exceed 60,000 transactions.
“It’s no surprise that we saw year-end sales decline and prices increase, as that was a trend during 2018,” said Timothy Warren, CEO of The Warren Group in a statement. “Every month last year, we saw home prices either increase or remain unchanged on a year-over-year basis. Meanwhile, eight out of the 12 months we saw home sales decline on a year-over-year basis.”