While there is never any guarantee in real estate, all of the market signs heading into the spring are positive: almost record-low interest rates, a lack of inventory, and a job market that many economists have deemed as close to full employment as we can possibly get. The Boston area, in particular, features a stronger job market than any other city on the East Coast. According to CBS News, the majority of tech jobs are being offered in four West Coast cities…and Boston! In addition, Boston/Cambridge is the top biotech job market in the country! We are seeing a steady influx of new people moving to Boston. We will always lose the usual retirees, who leave for better weather in points south and west, but the housing market is being stressed by the greater number of newcomers to the area.
The Newton and Brookline markets, in particular, remain two of the strongest communities for real estate because of their proximity to Boston and also because both communities benefit tremendously from being on the MBTA green line. Newton also hosts the crossroads of two of the 20 longest interstates in the country, I-90 (the Mass. Turnpike) and I-95 (which will always be known to native Bostonians as Rt 128). The Rt 2 corridor communities of Belmont, Arlington, and Lexington, and to a lesser extent, Waltham, have also benefited from being a straight shot into Cambridge and its thriving biotech industry and its educational institutions. However, residents of all of those communities must rely on bus service or commuting to Alewife station if one wishes to rely on the MBTA trolley system.
The trend over the last 20 or so years, even in the leaner years of 2006 to 2009, has been that the buyers who expect or desire to purchase a new home by the end of the spring, or certainly by the end of the summer, start scouting out properties to begin their homebuying process in January. (I have even seen an uptick in activity and interest from buyers in December, even moreso than the earlier fall months, when there is no sense of urgency in real estate). However, those considering selling are usually under the mistaken notion that they should hold off until the spring. This results in a real dearth of winter inventory! I recommend to anyone thinking of selling that they list their house in the winter months, when inventory is low, but all of the Buyers are out there! Unless there is a snowstorm on a particular weekend (and I have still seen massive turnouts at a hot, new listing’s first open house, even with over a foot of freshly fallen snow), open house crowds are huge in January and February, when only a few new homes hit the market each week, and the entire buyer pool all converges on the same few houses have an introductory open house on the same January day. However, those considering selling are often under the mistaken notion that they should hold off until the spring.
Provided that there is no snowstorm, I have always said the best week to list a property is at the start of the two-week break in scheduling between the AFC/NFC championship games and the Super Bowl. We have been fortunate in these parts to have been blessed In this Brady/Belichick era of the Patriots to have had playoff football in all but one January of this century. The weekend when there is no football on anyone’s mind is the weekend when buying a house is on the most people’s minds. The football fan who sets aside time to watch games on a weekend no longer has that distraction on that late January weekend. (This year, that weekend is January 25 and 26th). (An aside: ironically, the one year in which the Patriots failed to make the playoffs in this century was the year that Brady was hurt, in 2007, which was also during the downturn in housing prices. Just like housing prices, Brady made a full recovery, and he may have even become a better player post-injury, just as the housing market regained it’s footing and then some. I’m just sayin’…). Indeed, single-family housing prices make their biggest jump over the course of the winter, and sometimes even settle down as we get further into the spring and more inventory emerges.
In Newton, any year in which we have had 50 or fewer single-family house listings on New Year’s Day, it has been a portend of a forthcoming solid spring market. We are heading in that direction right now. Even though, as of the time of this writing, there were 78 detached single-family homes on the market in Newton, many listings expire as of December 31. Others who plan to continue their listing after the new year will often pull their homes off of the market around the holidays, in spite of the fact that there are buyers out there or even willing to make their decision to buy in December. People often just do not want the distraction of strangers trudging through their house around the holidays.
The message to Sellers is not to hold off until spring. I have seen plenty of homes go under agreement in the winter with an extended closing until late spring. For Buyers, that perfect house may, indeed, be the one that hits the market in the winter. But, alas, don’t despair, there will be plenty more from which to choose as we move into the spring months.
My best to everyone for a happy Holiday season and a Happy and prosperous New Year!