Want a starter home? Better move fast


Monitor staff
Published: 4/14/2019 7:29:24 PM

When it comes to measuring the temperature of a housing market there is hot and then there is really hot.

“Around here it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of what I would deem starter homes, or even second homes,” said Geoff McDonald, whose family just bought a home in East Concord. “If you’re in that 200 to 300 (thousand dollar) range, … someone looking for a house in that range, it would be very difficult.”

The family, including his wife, Melissa, and their 3-year-old daughter, Madison, would have been looking in that range except for the money they made from selling their previous house in Indianapolis. Even though they were able to avoid the most frenzied part of the housing market, they still weren’t able to land a home in Bow like they hoped. 

“For the last seven months we’ve been looking for houses throughout the greater Concord-Manchester area,” said McDonald, who grew up in Bow and moved back following a job after living in various places around the country. “We were looking for Bow originally but it was too expensive.”

McDonald’s insight about the competition at the low end of the price range is accurate, according to Concord area real estate agents who say a single-family home for $250,000 is sold almost immediately.

Steve DeStephano, a Realtor with Century 21, agreed and gave an example.

On the first Saturday in April, he showed a house at 36 Bow Center Road listed at $245,000. They had 35 groups come through and received multiple offers that day. It was under contract in less than a week, he said.

“About 95 percent of the people who came through were young families. It’s people who want to get into the school system,” DeStephano said.

New Hampshire’s real estate market in 2018 showed the highest median sale prices and the shortest time on the market in 20 years. In addition, Merrimack County almost set a new high for total number of houses sold with 1,964, which is about 50 less than in 2017. Rising prices and lowering time on the market are two major indicators of increased competition.

Real estate experts say the market for homes between $300,000 and $400,000 is still pretty tight, but the upper end, $450,000 and over, is less intense.

One reason for this low-end frenzy is demographics.

New Hampshire has one of the oldest median ages of any state and many Baby Boomers are down-sizing after the kids have grown up and have moved away. That puts them in competition with younger adults for smaller homes.

The older buyers who have sold their previous home are more likely to have equity and can outbid first-time homeowners, one of the reasons that young adults are having trouble staying in New Hampshire.

Another reason is building patterns.

It can be difficult for developers to make money building less-expensive housing and so less of it gets made, which increases competition.

As for house-hunters, don’t de spair. Spring is always the busiest ti me for the market.

“Right now there’s more buyers than there are sellers. It will slow down; May and June won’t be crazy like it is now,” said DeStephano.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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