While November saw a more than 50 percent spike in single-family home sales compared with the same month last year, local real estate watchers said this week that they were even more heartened by a slight bump in median home prices and increased sales in nearly every price category.
Such consistency is further proof that the New London County real estate market is in the midst of a gradual recovery from a 4-year-old recession, real estate leaders said, reacting to new numbers released by Les Bray of Sound Investment Consultants, who provides monthly numbers exclusively to The Day.
The region's median home price in November was $215,000, a $6,000 increase from the same month last year. That's a modest 2.9 percent rise, but one that has been repeated nearly every month this year.
The total number of sales in a broad range of price categories experienced double-digit growth in Bray's rolling-average analysis that shows total closings up nearly 20 percent over last year's figures. Homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 range, which had been severely lagging over the past few years, are now showing the heartiest growth trends.
"Every price range shows an increase with the exception of million-dollar homes, which are down just slightly," Bray said in a phone interview.
John Bolduc, chief executive officer of the Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors, said median prices have risen over the past three consecutive quarters and he expects the trend to continue as foreclosures and short sales decline.
He added that small increases in real estate prices are a good sign, showing that the market is sustainable - unlike what was happening in 2005-2007, before real estate collapsed.
"We don't want to see double digits for a long time," Bolduc said.
As for why sales of single-family homes spiked this November compared to the same period last year, Bolduc and Bray could only speculate that it had something to do with the nor'easter in late October of 2011 delaying closings the following month. The effect is unclear, however, considering that the region also was affected by Hurricane Sandy in the latter part of October this year.
The 203 homes in New London County that sold last month represented an increase of 70 from the year before.
While single-family homes are seeing rays of sunlight, land sales and condominiums are still experiencing a bit of gloom, according to the numbers.
Land sales have increased lately but are more than 70 percent off their peak in 2006. Condo sales fell dramatically in November compared with the same period last year, and quarterly numbers are off up to 21 percent so far in 2012.
Bolduc said lower land-sale figures make sense, since builders are not able to get construction loans from wary banks. And the condo market has been battling new Federal Housing Administration guidelines, said Bray, sending condo associations in a bit of disarray, though relief is expected from a recent change in regulations regarding the payment of association fees.
Bray said he hopes current trends continue, but there are a number of factors - including potential wholesale job losses, the fiscal cliff and possible military cuts - that could affect the local market.
For now, though, the market is back - solidly, if not spectacularly, whether because of pent-up demand or a decision by buyers to take a risk they hadn't wanted or been able to contemplate in the past couple of years.
"The whole year has seen a steady growth," Bray said. "That's a positive thing."