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Home Sales, Prices Show Increase in Both Woodstock, Lebanon



Valley News Business Writer
Saturday, May 20, 2017

Woodstock is where it’s at. At least if you want to sell your house.

For now anyway.

The historic town and tourist destination leads the Upper Valley in both rising home sales and home prices, followed by Norwich and Lebanon.

At the same time, home prices and demand are off in many outer communities including Lyme, Weathersfield, Plainfield, Enfield, Thetford, Pomfret and Sharon.

“They’ve had a great first half of the year,” Buff McLaughry, chief operating officer of Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty in Hanover, said about the Woodstock real estate market. “There’s a lot of value and units available. Last year it wasn’t as active so the market is catching up.”

Homes sales in Woodstock jumped 87 percent during the first quarter — to 43, up from 23 during the same period last year — and average sales price rose 64 percent, to $404,000, according to data supplied by the Northern New England Real Estate Network.

Another important gainer in the period was Lebanon, where homes sales rose 37 percent — to 37, up from 27 — and the average sales price increased 5.6 percent, to $243,000.

At the same time, the latest real estate data shows the Upper Valley broadly divided into two separate markets with demand for homes and prices strong in population centers such as Lebanon, Hartford and Hanover or wealthy towns like Woodstock and Norwich but less robust or weak in other communities.

Average home prices in Woodstock and Norwich also can swing widely between quarters because of the relatively fewer number of homes sold compared with other towns and the impact a single high-end sale can have on the figures.

The findings were compiled by veteran Upper Valley Realtors McLaughry and Ned Redpath and presented to the nonprofit Upper Valley Housing Coalition, which advocates on behalf of workforce housing.

In Hartford, home sales slipped 2.6 percent, to 37 from 38, although the average price rose almost 12 percent, to $205,000 from $183,000 a year ago.

Home sales in Hanover were flat at 15 while the average sale price fell 16.3 percent, to $508,000 from $607,000.

First-quarter real estate activity is a bellwether for the first half of the year, accounting for about two-thirds of annual real estate sales, McLaughry said. The vast majority of the homes sold in the Upper Valley are priced at $350,000 or below, where activity in recent months has been firm.

Pending home sales at $350,000 or below rose 2.9 percent, to 826, across Windsor, Grafton, Sullivan and Orange counties between February and April, while the length of time the properties were on the market fell 7.7 percent, to 144 days. The number of closed home sales rose 6.6 percent, to 564.

McLaughry said the region’s unusually low unemployment rate of 3 percent or below, and continued low interest rates of around 4 percent, have been pushing people out of rental and into purchasing homes.

Although some economists have voiced concern that the underlying economic data does not support the ongoing bull market in stocks, consumer confidence in the future remains strong.

“If you have a job you probably are not fearful of the job going away in the next few years,” McLaughry said. “So you’re going to feel more comfortable about making a home purchase.”

Another factor currently driving home purchases, however, portends fears that interest rates will be moving higher, making it more costly to buy a home in the future, so people are buying now to lock in a lower rate.

For every 1 percent rise in the interest rate, a buyer loses 10 percent in purchasing power on a home, according to McLaughry. Expectations that interest rates are going up is “getting people off the sidelines and looking” he said.

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.