Pending home sales reach record in May

The Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR) issued a report this week Future Indicators showing that pending sales of single family homes (SF) in Massachusetts in May were the highest for any May since records started in 2004, while pending sales of condos were second only to those in May 2005.

After the brutal winter we endured, it is not surprising that buyers emerged with gusto when the weather finally broke.

I can imagine that one of the most frustrating things for a journalist must be seeing a headline for an article which conveys a misleading impression (in general journalists write the story while the headline is written by somebody else). Thus the headline on this article is, in part: Price and Market Confidence Index down.

On reading the article, the median price for SFHs increased in May by 7.4% in May while that for condos was up 8.6%. So to what does the headline apply?

“As more inventory starts to make its way to the market, REALTOR®-member confidence that prices will continue to go up isn’t as strong as it has been,” said Ruffini. “However, buyer demand is strong based on pending sales and hopefully that should start to push the REALTOR® Market Confidence Index up in the coming months.”

Note that this refers to those Realtors who responded to a survey. It does not say that those Realtors think prices are not going up; just that they are not as strongly convinced as they were at this time last year. Since Realtors in general are independent contractors working alone I always suspect that such surveys are more a reflection of that Realtor’s personal business pipeline than a considered, research- driven analysis of the economy and real estate trends.

We have seen a number of press headlines in recent months suggesting that prices are going up more slowly than they were a year or so ago. Suppose prices last year went up from $400,000 to $440,000. That’s a 10% increase. Now let’s assume they go up by $40,000 again this year. Because the denominator is now bigger ($440,000 rather than $400,000) the increase this year is “only” 9%. So the headline writer will say: “price increase slowing.”

A primary goal of my articles is to help buyers and sellers of real estate understand what is really happening. When you see articles about real estate, go past the headline and read the actual reports. And then use common sense. And then you will know “the rest of the story.” And you can always ask me!

If you – or somebody you know – are considering buying or selling a home and have questions about the market and/or current home prices, feel free to contact me on 617.834.8205 or

Andrew Oliver is a Realtor with Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty

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