Housing MarketReal Estate

The hazy, lazy days of summer hit the northern New Hampshire housing market

Local agents are reporting a drop in buyer activity as inventory in the region continues to rise

For many, summertime in northern New Hampshire is the perfect opportunity to get back to nature, relax lakeside and generally slow down a little. According to local real estate agents, the region’s housing market seems to have read the same memo, as June did not bring the same market boost as many have grown accustomed to.

“There isn’t a whole lot of time during the year where it is super slow because we have a lot of vacation buyers, but pre-COVID, between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, when the mountains were just starting to open, was typically slow. And then April and May, when the mountains closed, that was usually slow, but all of that went away during COVID and it was like full on, all-the-ttime busy,” said Emily Kubichko, the broker-owner of North Conway-based Pinkham Real Estate.

“So, this year, April and May were a little slower, so it felt like we were getting back to a normal market. We still have low inventory, but also not a lot of buyer activity, and now I’m seeing more inventory come on the market and still not as much buyer activity. It really is just really slow from a buyer standpoint.”

In Carroll County, New Hampshire, where Kubichko’s brokerage is based, the Altos Research Market Action Index Score has dropped from a 90-day moving average of 43 in March to 39.73 as of June 21, 2024. Altos considers anything over 30 to be indicative of a seller’s market.

Carroll-County-Market-Action-Index-Line-Chart-Carroll-County-NH-90-day-Single-Family

The two other counties that make up the northernmost section of the stateCoos and Grafton — showed similar trends, with their respective Market Action Index scores dropping from 39 to 37 and from 47 to 42 in the past month.

Coos-and-Grafton-Counties-Market-Action-Index-Line-Chart-90-day-Single-Family

“The trend of buyers has been significantly different the last four to five weeks,” said Charissa Kennard, an agent for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty. “Winter and spring, it was very, very busy. But the spring market was delayed a little because we got a snowstorm in April with over two feet of snow, and that could be part of why things are weird this year.”

Despite the slowdown, Andy Smith, the broker-owner of Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, said the market is actually still quite strong.

“Overall pendings are up a small percentage, but we’ll take a 3%, 4% or 5% pending sales increase because it is headed in the right direction,” Smith said. “Buyers are still buying and sellers are still selling. There is nothing there right now that really scares us; buyers just have the opportunity to be a bit more sensible with their offers and don’t have to worry about waiving inspections or financing contingencies, which is a good thing.”

Although pending sales are up, local agents noted that properties are taking longer to go under contract, leading to an uptick in inventory and days on market.

Data from Altos Research shows that the 90-day average number of days on market in Coos County is 49 days, up from 42 days a year ago. In Grafton County, the seven-day average has jumped from 21 days in early May to 35 days in late June.

Northern-NH-Median-Days-on-Market-Line-Chart-90-day-Single-Family

Additionally, inventory across all three counties has grown in recent months, jumping most noticeably in Grafton County from from a 90-day average of 106 single-family listings in mid-April to 147 listings in late June.

Northern-NH-Inventory-Line-Chart-90-day-Single-Family

On top of listings sitting on the market longer — leading to a small but appreciated backlog of inventory — local agents say more homeowners are looking to list their properties.

“We’ve definitely noticed an increase in inventory, and with not as much buyer activity, we are seeing longer days on the market and even some price drops,” Kubichko said. “I have more listings right now than I have had in years.”

Altos data also illustrates this trend, with the 90-day average number of new single-family listings hitting the market in Grafton, Carroll and Coos counties jumping from respective figures of 11, 6.2 and 5.3 in early March to 25, 20 and 11 in late June.

Northern-NH-New-Listings-Line-Chart-90-day-Single-Family

Northern New Hampshire’s uptick in new listings is contrary to what agents are seeing in many other markets across the country, where prospective sellers are holding off on selling their homes due to the low mortgage rate they have on their current property.

“As we’ve seen more inventory come on, part of me thinks that perhaps is it because people have been waiting and waiting, and they have wanted to sell, but they couldn’t find the right property and they didn’t know where they would go, or they were waiting to hit the top of the market so they could get as much as they could,” said Kerry MacDougall, a North Conway-based broker and the regional sales director at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate The Masiello Group.

“I think what we are starting to see here is if sellers are ready to sell — or they want to sell or they need to sell — they are getting tired of stalling that out. How long are they going to wait for prices or interest rates?

Local agents are not exactly sure what has caused this most recent market slowdown. Some speculate that it is a combination of factors including increased affordability challenges due to still-elevated home prices and higher interest rates, increased awareness of and sensitivity to the upcoming presidential election, and simply just the start of summer vacations.

“It is tough right now,” MacDougall said. “When in history have we ever been in a situation where we were in a post-pandemic market, interest rates were higher than they have been in a while, inventory is low and we are in a presidential election year? Those four factors alone make for an interesting market, and typically you would only get one, maybe two of them at a time, but we have all four of them at the same time and its challenging for Realtors.”

Although the market may not be as ideal for sellers, agents say the current market is the best they have seen for buyers in several years.

“I think we are a little bit overdue for a shift back toward a balanced, if not buyers, market, so I don’t think it would be the worst thing and it seems we might be heading in that direction, “Kubichko said of current market trends.

“And that would be great for all buyers. I feel like they have a little bit more leverage than they did, and they don’t feel as intimidated about entering the market. They also have time to think about a property and determine whether or not it is the right move for them, and they might even be able to get a little money off the price, instead of falling in love with a house and not knowing if they are going to get it in a bidding war. It’s actually been a refreshing change.”

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