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Sales of Rhode Island homes rise in first half of year

Data released by the Rhode Island Association of Realtors last week show that single family homes sales increased in the first six months of 2014, compared with the same period last year, in Westerly, Charlestown and Richmond, and were down marginally in Hopkinton.

For South County as a whole, the Realtors reported 668 home sales from January to June, compared with 639 in the first half of 2013, an increase of 4.5 percent. Statewide, there were 3,915 single-family home sales this year, compared with 3,996 last year, a decline of 2 percent. The figures were pulled from the State-Wide Multiple Listing Service, which tracks all Realtor-assisted sales, which account for a substantial portion of real estate tranactions.

Here is a sampling of the six-month figures for local towns, as compiled by the Warwick-based professional group:

• Westerly — 117 single-family homes sales through the end of June 2014, up from 93 last year. The median price was $305,000, compared with $250,000, a gain of 22 percent. In contrast, Rhode Island’s overall median price for single family home sales through the end of June 2014 was up 6 percent from the prior year: from $198,000 to $210,000.

Looking just at June of 2014, there were 28 home sales in Westerly, compared with 22 in June 2013. The year-to-year increase in median price was almost 19.6 percent, going from $287,000 in June 2013 to $343,144 this June.

• Charlestown — 56 home sales in the first six months of 2014, a gain of 15, and an increase in median price of 25 percent, from $265,000 in June 2013 to $331,275 this June.

Nine houses were sold this past June, one more than in June 2013, and the median price was $305,000, compared with $294,900 in June 2013.

• Richmond — 43 single-family home sales in the first half of this year, compared with 38 in the same period last year. The median price this year was $251,000, compared with $189,000 in 2013, an increase of almost 33 percent.

There were 10 homes sold this past June, up from 4 in June 2013, and the median price was $256,500, compared with $156,500 in the same period last year.

• Hopkinton — 35 homes in January-June 2014, compared with 41 in the same period last year; the median price rose from $200,000 last year to $210,000 in 2014.

Ten homes sold in Hopkinton in June 2014, compared with 11 in the same month last year; the median price was $177,000 this June and $199,000 in June 2013.

Looking at all nine towns in Washington County, Westerly, at 117, ranked third in single family home sales from January to June, trailing South Kingstown’s 141 and North Kingstown’s 134. These figures correlate with population, although it could be noted that the 2014 sales from the two larger towns represented decreases from the first half of last year. In South Kingstown’s case, the decrease was fairly noticeable — down 13.5 percent from the year before, when there were 163 home sales.

According to the Realtors’ data, Westerly and Narragansett were the only towns in South County with more than 20 condominium sales over the first six months of this year. There were 34 condo sales in Westerly during this period, compared with 26 in 2013, and the median price was up nearly 22 percent, rising from $187,750 last year to $228,535 in 2014. In Narragansett, 23 condos sold through June 2014, at a median of $350,000; in the same period of 2013, there were 26 sales and the median was $364,500.

Another piece of information that stands out in the condominium sales data is the real estate association’s calculation of average days on the market, which declined from 142 days in 2013 in Westerly to 92 in 2014. Narragansett’s so-called average DOM also declined, from 167 days to 106 during the same periods. (Block Island, on the other hand, sports a lofty condo DOM: 367 days on the market in 2014, compared with 386 in 2013. No other town in Rhode Island comes close to that number, but it’s probably statistically insignficant based on sample size: there were only two condominiums sales on the island in each six-month period.)

In a press release, Robert Martin, president of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors, said: “We are slowly making progress. Rhode Islanders are regaining equity, though not at the same pace as most states. We continued to be plagued with higher unemployment than other areas and for many people, wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living. Obviously that makes it difficult for some people to consider a move.”

Martin, owner of Century 21 Crossroads in Woonsocket and Chepachet, was named president of the 4,000-member group in January. He previously served as president of the statewide Multiple Listing Service.

For all of Rhode Island, there were 943 single family home sales in June of this year, down 18 from the same month last year, and the median price was $230,000, down $9,000. Of those sales, 122 were classified as “distressed properties” in June 2014, compared with 159 in June 2013. Those are sales involving foreclosures and short sales, and in the first half they amounted to a little over 19 percent of all single-family home sales.

“Sales activity is still constrained by the fact that nearly one in five sellers are not likely to buy another home in the near future and some potential buyers don’t have enough equity if they sell to have an adequate down payment on their next home, even if they’re not in a distressed sale situation,” Martin said. “Despite the fact that interest rates remain near all-time lows, many people still can’t take advantage of the great market conditions. Fortunately, a number of reports indicate that our economy is slowly getting better and so too is our housing market.”

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