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Eastern Connecticut spring home sales heat up

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published July 04. 2013 4:00AM

Higher home prices in Windham County helped offset a softening of real estate in New London County during the second quarter, according to new statistics released Wednesday by the local Realtors association.

The Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors, which compiles numbers for New London and Windham counties, said the key April-to-June spring selling season saw a dramatic 15.2 percent rise in single-family home sales compared with the same period last year.

The second quarter also featured a 4.4 percent rise in the median price of a local home compared with last year. A more than $7,000 decline in the price of a median New London County home was offset by a similar increase in Windham County, according to statistics available at www.easternctrealtors.com.

"The market's prices are kind of going nowhere," said John Bolduc, chief executive of the local Realtors association.

Bolduc blamed declining jobs numbers in the Norwich-New London market for some of the region's relatively lackluster home prices even as other parts of the state and nation approach double-digit increases.

Other reasons for the region's lagging real estate market, he said, are an overhang of foreclosed and bank-owned properties - which may take another year or more to clear out - as well as the state's judicial-review process that makes it more difficult for distressed properties to make a quick turnaround.

On the other hand, Bolduc noted that buyers are jumping into the market, perhaps spurred by reports that interest rates on mortgages may start creeping up in the coming months. Even condominium sales, which had been lackluster over the past year or two, showed a significant 14.6 percent rise in sales, as well as a 5.2 percent gain in the median price.

"Condos are starting to pick up again," Bolduc said.

He added that condo sales are being spurred by an increase in condo associations being approved for Federal Housing Administration loan programs. FHA rules imposed after the housing meltdown had made it more difficult for buyers to acquire loans in condo complexes that were out of compliance with new regulations.

The single-family median price for New London and Windham counties combined was $200,000 for the second quarter, slightly above the $197,500 seen last year. Condos saw a more robust increase, with the median price of $125,000 last spring rising to $131,450 during the same period this year.

Bolduc noted, however, that the New London County median sales price, while still higher than Windham County's, was showing signs of softening, declining from $227,450 to $220,000. Windham County, by contrast, saw a median increase from $158,050 to $165,000.

While the region's median price for a single-family home was up slightly, Bolduc noted that the average price was on the wane, an indication, he said, that "we're getting a broader spread of values for what's being sold."

He noted that six homes priced at $1 million or more sold last quarter.

"All price ranges are selling," he said.

Bolduc also pointed out that mobile home sales saw a big spike last quarter, with sales increasing nearly 75 percent and prices soaring 34 percent. The cost of a typical mobile home was still only $33,500, but that was up from the $25,000 median seen last spring.

"It must be an inexpensive alternative people are looking at for housing," he said.

l.howard@theday.com

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