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It may not be 2006 all over again, but home sales in the region are booming this spring.
Single-family house sales and median prices rose by more than 20 percent in New London County during May, according to a statewide real estate report released Friday.
The $245,500 median price for a single-family house recorded in New London County last month compared with $204,250 during the same period a year ago, according to The Warren Group, publisher of The Commercial Record. May sales in the region totaled 174, an increase of 22.5 percent from the number of single-family house transactions recorded in the same month last year.
"The spring market has been especially strong in Connecticut," Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of The Warren Group, said in a statement. "We're expecting home sales to continue to soar this summer, thanks to low mortgage rates and affordable prices luring buyers into the market."
Local condominium sales also were strong, up 29 percent in May compared with a year earlier, while median prices rose nearly 20 percent over the same period. Last month's median condo price in New London County was $157,590 compared with $131,450 in May of last year.
Even with the relatively good local numbers, however, sales and prices were significantly lower than seen during boom times for real estate a few years ago. In 2006, for instance, spring home sales in New London and Windham counties were running near the 400 level each month, with a median price of $268,000.
Still, real estate agents locally are "hopping busy," said Cathy Duprey, president of the Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors. "Everybody seems to be picking up business," she said.
Duprey said interest rates in the low- to mid-3 percent range this spring have brought out buyers who are convinced there may never be a better time to purchase a home. What's more, she said, inventories are starting to come down, so there aren't a lot of excess homes on the market.
Local banks such as Savings Institute and Citizens National are offering creative new programs to get first-time homebuyers and others with limited incomes into homes, Duprey said. These equity-builder programs offer up to $10,000 in grants for those who agree to stay in their homes at least five years, she added.
While first-time buyers were predominant over the past two years, taking advantage of home-buying incentives being offered up by the federal government, Duprey said a number of move-up buyers are also in the market today. She said she has even been involved in a lot deal in which the buyers plan to build a 3,000-square-foot colonial, a rarity in recent years.
"A lot of people have been on hold and now they're starting to look," Duprey said.
Statewide, home sales increased nearly 15 percent in May. It was the fifth straight month of year-over-year increases in Connecticut home prices.
But the state's median home price declined slightly from the level of last May, to $247,000. This was the highest median price of the year so far, but the state's typical sale is still 5 percent lower so far this year than at the same point in 2011.
Year-to-date condo prices statewide are also down from 2011 levels, by nearly 6 percent.
"Prices are continuing to drop, indicating buyers are in the driver's seat and making good deals," Warren said.
New London County real estate, May 2011 vs. 2012
Single-family sales: 174, up 22.5 percent
Condominium sales: 31, up 29.2 percent
Single-family median price: $245,500, up 20.2 percent
Condominium median price: $57,590, up 19.9 percent