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Home prices in Greater Boston keep climbing despite slip in sales

Buying Latest Sales
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. John Bazemore/Associated Press

The 2018 housing market has been nothing if not consistent. Inventory remains low, while prices and mortgage rates are climbing.

The fluctuating stock market is only adding to the insecurity, and is partly responsible for the slip in condo and single-family home sales in the region, according to a report the Greater Boston Association of Realtors released Wednesday. The number of single-family homes that sold in December 2018 (965) reflects a 0.2 drop from December 2017. Condo sales took a big hit. There were 731 sales in December 2018, an 11.5 percent decrease over that month a year before.

“Buyers are exercising a little more caution and restraint than a year ago,” said James Major, GBAR president and an agent with Century 21 North East in Woburn. “The pool of buyers is still large, but after several years of record low inventory, we saw listings begin to climb this fall. And with home prices and mortgage rates both up steadily from a year ago, we’re seeing less urgency and willingness from buyers to make offers above asking price, enter bidding wars, or waive contingencies than at any time in the prior three years, and that’s resulted in a slower sale pace.”

Despite the tempering of this seller’s market, prices are still going up for single-family homes, according to the report. The median selling price in December 2018 was $590,000, a 0.2 percent increase compared with December 2017. The median price for condos remained unchanged, $539,000.

“It’s been another year of healthy price appreciation in home values, but the gains were much smaller during the fall quarter, and prices were essentially flat over the prior year in December,” Major said. “In many communities, it appears prices are likely at or near their peak. We think selling prices should moderate some going forward as inventory levels improve with the approach of the spring market, which is sure to be welcomed news for home buyers.”

It was the first time in three years that year-end single-family sales failed to exceed 60,000 transactions statewide, The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman, said in a news release.

“It’s no surprise that we saw year-end sales decline and prices increase, as that was a common trend during the course of 2018,” said Tim Warren, CEO of The Warren Group. “Every month last year, we saw home prices either increase or remain unchanged on a year-over-year basis. Meanwhile, eight out of the 12 months we saw home sales decline on a year-over-year basis.”

Statewide, the number of condo sales dropped 1.4 percent year over year, but the median price for a unit rose 7 percent to $365,000 — an all-time high for condominiums in any calendar year, The Warren Group said.

“Condos proved to be a hot commodity during the course of 2018,” Warren said. “There were a few months during the peak 2018 home-buying season when the median condo price approached the $400,000 mark, which would have been a first. Perhaps 2019 will be the year where we finally see this happen.”

How did your community fare?

Central Middlesex County
ActonBedfordBoxboroughConcordHudsonLexingtonLincolnMaynardStowSudburyWayland, and Weston

These communities saw a 0.1 percent increase in the median single-family selling price, from $799,950 in December 2017 to $801,000 in December 2018. Condo prices shot up 15.2 percent, from $405,000 in December 2017 to $466,500. Single-family homes spent an average of 77 days on the market. For condos, it was 75.

Eastern Middlesex
BurlingtonMaldenMedfordMelrose, North Reading, ReadingStonehamWakefieldWilmingtonWinchester, and Woburn

These communities saw a 3.7 percent increase in the median single-family selling price, from $540,000 in December 2017 to $560,000 in December 2018. Condo prices dipped 5.2 percent, from $429,900 in December 2017 to $407,500. Single-family homes spent an average of 55 days on the market. For condos, it was 42.

Metro Boston
Arlington, Belmont, BostonBrooklineCambridge, Chelsea, Dedham, Everett, MiltonNewton, Revere, SomervilleWalthamWatertown, and Winthrop

The selling price for single-family homes edged up 1.9 percent, from $657,500 in December 2017 to $670,000 in December 2018. Condo prices rose 1.1 percent, from $628,000 in December 2017 to $635,000. Condos spent an average of 57 days on the market. For single-family homes, that number was 56.

Metrowest
AshlandDoverFraminghamHollistonHopkintonMedfieldMedwayMillisNatickNeedhamSherborn, and Wellesley

The median selling price for a single-family home dropped 6.8 percent, from $644,000 in December 2017 to $600,000 in December 2018. Condo prices rose 2 percent, from $400,000 in December 2017 to $408,000. Single-family homes spent an average of 64 days on the market. For condos, it was 91.

Southern Norfolk County
AvonBellinghamCantonFoxboroughFranklinMansfieldNorfolkNorwood, Randolph, SharonStoughtonWalpoleWestwood, and Wrentham

The median selling price for a single-family home here was $448,888 in December 2018, a 7.1 percent increase from the December 2017 price of $419,000. Condo prices rose 11.3 percent, from $255,000 in December 2017 to $283,750. Condos spent an average of 43 days on the market. For single-family homes, that number was 69.

City of Boston

The median selling price for a single-family home here was $565,000 in December 2018, an 0.6 percent decrease from $568,500 in December 2017. Condo prices went up 0.1 percent, from $637,000 in December 2017 to $637,500. Single-family homes spent an average of 58 days on the market. For condos, it was 59.

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