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Thursday, May 24, 2012

UPDATE: Prices continue to slump, though sales show slight increase

Charlestown Real Estate Update
By Will Collette

Update: new Zillow numbers for sales in the month of April show a small uptick of 0.2% over March. The April average was $297,000. 


While real estate sales around Rhode Island are beginning to rebound slightly, it’s still hard to sell a home at the price you want.

Recently, the Westerly Sun reported a slight bump in March sales in Westerly, Richmond, Hopkinton and Charlestown. New statewide figures for Rhode Island just came out and they show a 24% increase for this April compared to April 2011.


Charlestown homes priced in the "affordable" range (less than $225,000)
The bad news is that sales prices continue to drop. The encouraging April statewide sales increase is tempered by a year-to-year drop of 8.8% in sales price. This drop reflects an increase in the number of those sales that are distressed properties.

But as RI Association of Realtors President Jamie Moore told Providence Business News, “We’re definitely seeing the distressed sales getting pushed through the pipeline to closing as banks are getting more efficient at processing them. Plus, more buyers seem to be jumping into the market to take advantage of the fantastic prices and low interest rates. As supply gets pushed down, prices will go up.”
Housing is still a buyers’ market, provided you can meet tough standards to get a mortgage at a decent rate.

Charlestown sellers appear to be more determined to get their asking price. The March sales in Charlestown averaged 97% of the asking price, while Richmond, Hopkinton and Westerly sellers settled for less. However, to get that higher percentage, Charlestown home sellers had their houses on the market for an average of 237 days, compared to only 70 days on average in the other towns.

Foreclosures and foreclosure sales
If you compare these March 2012 numbers for Charlestown to 2011 numbers, the picture is mixed. According to the state realtors association, in 2011 Charlestown homes stayed on the market for 134 days, compared to 237 days now. However, we may be seeing a decline in distressed properties – the RI Realtors tallied 18 at the end of 2011 but Realtytrac.com now lists about a dozen.

Zillow.com continues to show a decline in average Charlestown home values, now at $293,000 which is a drop of 9.2% compared to last year.

According to Zillow.com, there are 37 home listings at under $225,000, the amount deemed “affordable.” Most of these are small condos and trailer homes.

Zillow.com: no year-round rentals in Charlestown
Charlestown’s greatest housing weakness continues to be year-round rental units. As usual, Zillow.com shows no rental properties available in Charlestown at any price (which is not surprising since owners can often collect much more in summer rentals than year-round).

Home values are important to most home owners even if you are not in the market. Your home is often your single most valuable asset and directly affects your peace of mind and feelings of well-being. Many families count on the equity in their homes to provide them with a safety net to borrow against when needed, but for many, that safety net is shredded.

These numbers are a cold measure of what working class homeowners in Charlestown are going through. The current CCA-controlled Town Government has shown indifference at best, if not outright scorn for struggling families. The best they have come up with to date is the “RHOTAP” tax relief game show that is cynically designed to fail.

Though there are many factors beyond the town’s control that bear on our local economy in general and housing market in particular, it’s a shame to see the town’s continued hostility toward affordable housing and toward tax relief for Charlestown residents. But I suppose if the town gave residents a tax break, we wouldn’t be able to throw half a million dollars into the Y-Gate scandal.

I’m sure Charlestown will have much, much more housing data to munch on once Planning Commissioner George Tremblay’s intern gets finished crunching local housing statistics. 

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