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Thanks to a mild winter, the spring house hunt is off to an early start

Buying
Home-Sign-Sale-Roswell-Georgia
“We’re starting to feel it a month earlier than usual,” said Hillary Birch, broker-owner of 3A Realty Group in Quincy. John Bazemore/Associated Press

Spring, for most people in Greater Boston, will begin on March 19, when the sun moves north over the equator, day and night are of nearly equal length, and marathoners are logging long weekend runs. Alas, for home buyers, the spring market follows no such predictable path.

“Because the weather has been mild, there are a lot of buyers out there looking, but spring begins when the listings start coming on the market in force, driving inventory up,” said Jason Gell, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Chestnut Hill and president of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors.

Sale prices for single-family homes and condos in Greater Boston were up 2.7 and 2.2 percent year over year, respectively, according to GBAR data. Sales were up 7.5 percent for single-families and a whopping 21.1 percent for condos.

“For properties coming on the market right now, we’re seeing those lines at the open houses,” Gell said. “Interestingly, the number of days on market is going up. Buyers are being a little more deliberate in making their offers and waiving fewer contingencies.”

Hillary Birch, broker-owner of 3A Realty Group in Quincy, said the mild winter has attracted more buyers and has allowed sellers to get their homes ready a bit faster, so she expects an early spring this year.

“We’re starting to feel it a month earlier than usual,” Birch said. “I anticipate late March, early April will be the busiest time. We’ve got a lot of buyers getting themselves ready to strike when the right property comes along. If a seller is ready, it’s to their benefit to list now, because they’ll have lots of buyers and less competition. If they don’t sell it in spring, they’ll still be able to sell; they’ll just have to price it more competitively.”

She said the historically low inventory means people who would like to sell often have trouble finding somewhere new to live. That keeps them from listing their current home, perpetuating the years-long trend of declining inventory, Birch said.

On the North Shore, spring has already arrived, according to Matt Dolan, a broker at Sagan Harborside Sotheby’s International Real Estate in Marblehead.

“There is buyer demand out there,” Dolan said. “We’re helping sellers to prepare for market earlier than past years. The lack of inventory allows properties to stand out. If a seller is ready to go this year and we can get it on the market now, they’ll stand out.”

Matt Freeman of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has been selling real estate in Milton for 21 years. He said spring has sprung in his market. A property he listed two weeks ago had 32 private showings, and after multiple offers, went under agreement in a week and a half.

He and the other agents quoted in this story said buyers thinking of jumping into the market had better get prepared.

(Tips for first-time buyers in a hot seller’s market.)

“The first step is making sure you connect with a reputable local lender who can guide you on the mortgage end of the process,” Freeman said. “Get comfortable with your budget and your numbers, then get preapproved, not prequalified. I want to make sure people have proof of funds or a preapproval letter before I show them properties. Then you’ll need an experienced local realtor to guide you through the process.

“And don’t get discouraged. There is a house and a town for everyone.”

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