Saugus housing sales are on the rise

BOSTON — Saugus outpaced the North Shore in April as single-family home sales and prices soared by double digits, according to The Warren Group, the Boston real estate tracker.

Brokers say construction of the $128 million Saugus Middle-High School has helped fuel sales and drive prices up.

Twenty-three homes sold in Saugus last month, up 44 percent from the 16 sold one year ago. As sales rose, so did prices. The median price for a single-family dwelling swelled by nearly 25 percent to $453,000, up from $363,500 last April.

Saugus is coming off a strong 2018 when the town led the pack of communities north of Boston. Last year, home sales rose by 10 percent and the median price was up 6 percent compared to 2017. From January through April, sales have increased by 12 percent and median prices grew by 13 percent.

“There’s been no let up and the spring market has been very active,” said Kathy Cucinelli, a broker at Hollett & Cucinelli Real Estate. “The new school is helping.”

Slated to open next year, the 269,070-square-foot three- and four-story campus will offer space for 1,360 students in grades 6-12.

The new school is part of a $161 million district restructuring recommended by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education and its Center for District and School Accountability.

Under the plan, in addition to construction of the middle and high school, the Belmonte Middle School will become an Upper Elementary School for grades 3-5, and the Veterans Memorial Elementary School will transform to a Lower Elementary School for pre-K to second grade, according to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which will pick up $60 million of the cost.

This initiative is intended to help Saugus achieve its goal to become a top-rated school district. Saugus schools have been rated Level 3, among the lowest performing 20 percent of schools in the state.

Ann Marie Wilcox, an agent at Carpenito Real Estate Inc. in Saugus, said a variety of factors have caused home sales to surge, including lower interest rates since January, and more homes for sale. But the new, state-of-the-art school is also a factor, she added.

“I’m not surprised by the numbers,” she said. “Inventory is up and last weekend there were 31 open houses and that’s driving prices, and so is the new school.”

Not every community saw surges in home sales.

In Lynn, the number of homes sold fell to 40 in April, down from 52 for the same month last year, a 23 percent dip. While sales have been down by 10 percent this year and fell 3.5 percent last year, prices continue to rise. The median price for a single-family home in Lynn was $360,000 in April, up 9 percent compared to last year.

Eileen Jonah, broker-owner of Jonah Realtors in Lynn, said sales have been sluggish, in part, because of the lack of homes for sale. At press time, there were 65 single-family homes listed in Lynn, priced from $280,000 for a four-bedroom on Grove Street to $824,900 for a nine-room Victorian on Atlantic Terrace. In previous years, there have been as many as 220 homes for sale, she said.

The other factor, she said, is interest rates. At the close of 2017, mortgage interest rates were below 4 percent, according to Freddie Mac, a quasi-public agency whose mission is to provide liquidity, stability, and affordability to the nation’s housing market. But by the close of 2018, the 30-year-fixed-rate was edging 5 percent. Since January, rates have been falling and dropped to 4.14 percent last month.

Richard Rosa, co-owner Buyers Broker Only LLC, said typically as rates rise, there’s a rush to purchase a home as potential buyers fear rates will go higher.

“But since prices are so high, many buyers are barely able to quality for a home loan,” he said. “Even a modest increase in rates takes them out of the game.”

Despite rising prices, Jonah said, Lynn is still the choice for many first-time homebuyers compared to other Great Boston communities and certainly on the North Shore.

Still, while much of the North Shore did not fare well in terms of sales, prices continued to rise.

In Peabody, sales were off by nearly 18 percent, though prices climbed. The median price of a single-family home increased to $445,000 last month, up 4.4 percent from a year ago when the median was $426,200.

In Lynnfield, sales have been off this year. Sales have fallen by 27 percent since January while the median price gained 2.5 percent to $666,000.

In Nahant, seven homes have sold through April, down from 10 one year ago but the median price has soared to $565,000, a 26 percent hike.

Marblehead was a mixed bag. Year-to-date sales are up by 12 percent while median prices have fallen by 5.5 percent to $646,000.

In Swampscott, sales have slipped by 23 percent as prices have remained flat at about $555,000.

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