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Market Insights

January-June 2019 Real Estate Market Review

The following report is exerpted from Tate and Foss SIR's Seacoast Market Watch for Summer 2019.

By John W. Rice

Greater Portsmouth Area

The Greater Portsmouth Area has the ocean, an abundance of amenities and "things to do." Small wonder median sales prices topped $1,000,000 in three of its six market towns. It was easily the most expensive Market Watch area in the first six months of 2019.

Still, sales were off six percent thanks to flagging inventory and challenging affordability. But Portsmouth still enjoyed an eight percent surge, one of just two towns to register an increase. The city remains a robust cultural center for a large geographical area, creating huge demand to live within walking distance of the action. Tate and Foss SIR brought the buyers to one of the city's most significant condominium sales at 28 Porter Street.

The period saw only eight transactions in New Castle and three in Rye Beach, but average prices in both towns were well over $1.6 million. A $5 million transaction at 136 Wild Rose Lane in New Castle was the largest among Market Watch towns. Tate and Foss SIR had the biggest sale in Rye ($1.8 million) where sales were off 3% and the median was a healthy $770,000.

Only Newington failed to register a $1m-plus sale, even though the town saw four more sales than last year. The afore-mention three sales in Rye Beach was the fewest of any town, but this was strictly an inventory thing. The properties sold quickly in an average of 24 days.

Greenland was a very affordable alternative with a median sales price under $400,000. The town still absorbed a 54% volume hit as buyers sought locations with more enhanced amenities. It took an average 67 days to sell a Greenland home as opposed to 51 in Portsmouth.

The Hamptons Area

After experiencing a major drop off in sales at this time last year, the Hamptons rallied for a 25% gain in 2019. That was the best volume improvement in any of the market areas. Hampton itself had the most sales and the second biggest gain-27%--while, literally, "no town was left behind."

With a buying demographic looking for more than just real estate, Hampton offers its world- famous beaches and proximity to all major commuting routes. And, significantly, a median sale price under $400,000, way less than any Greater Portsmouth town.

The best bargains, however, were to be found in tax-friendly Seabrook where sales jumped 36% as the sales median slipped 8% to $355,700. On the opposite side of the ledger, both Hampton and Seabrook saw three impressive sales for more than $2 million, all homes on sandy beach.
North Hampton came in with the highest median at $574,900-almost exactly where it was last year. All the same, the sales in Seabrook and Hampton remained the biggest of the five Hampton market towns. Only South Hampton failed to register a sale for more than $1 million. But then the town had only four transactions, just as it did last year.
Overall, it was a great start for the Hamptons which outdid itself across the board from 2018.

Greater Exeter Area

While sales were off four percent for the period, the Greater Exeter Area saw a smattering of impressive transactions that just a few years ago would've been unthinkable. Exeter itself continues to be a huge draw with an improved downtown and amenities like first class public and private schools, the train and the Rinks at Exeter.

But, as we hinted, where $1 million-plus sales were once non-existent, four of the six towns had sales of at least $1 million with a $1,550,000 transaction in Stratham being the biggest. Tate and Foss SIR participated in the largest sales in Brentwood and Newfields, respectively. Kensington and East Kingston each had significant increases in sales, though none exceeded $785,000. Still, Kensington's median of $632,500 was by-far the region's highest.

Of the area's 257 sales, almost 200 or 78% were in Exeter and Stratham. Surprisingly, Greater Exeter had the second lowest days-on-the-market count (54) behind only the red-hot Dover area.


Last year, Greater Exeter was a region coming into its own with remarkable affordability and a corresponding boost in sales. That secret is apparently out, and the region is now clearly appreciating and finally leaving the ravishes of the Great Depression behind.

Greater Dover Area

Last summer we opined that as long as the Greater Dover Area median sale price trailed Portsmouth by $300,000, it would continue to be the most active market. As of July 1, the Dover area median was $301,000 less at $249,000. Subsequently, the area was easily the most active of New Hampshire Market Watch towns.

The town of Dover traded places with Rochester as the busiest market with 200 sales to the Lilac City's 198. This even though Dover's median price remained just as it was last year at $305,000, a full $81,600 higher than Rochester, which appreciated a modest 2%. Clearly, Dover has the infrastructure and amenities that Rochester struggles to emulate. But Rochester remains easily in reach of cash-strapped buyers.

There were no $1 million sales to be found, but buyers were snapping up houses faster here than any other market area. Multiple offers were the rule rather than the exception as sellers had the luxury of picking and choosing contracts on the most favorable terms.

Interestingly, the region was the only New Hampshire market that lost average value, coming n at -2% for the year. The lack of high-end transactions was likely the culprit here. The biggest sales in Rochester and Somersworth, for example, were less than $465,000.

Greater Durham Area

With UNH, Amtrak, top-notch high schools and now the Riverwoods complex, the Greater Durham Area would seem to be positioned well for strong sales activity. But the region straight-lined over the year, producing just one more sale than 2018. The 142 total sales were the least of any market area.

One culprit that has always served to tamp down prices here are high property taxes. Nevertheless, Newmarket saw a healthy 22% jump in sales, while Madbury and Durham both lost ground to the tune of 18%. Appreciation was uneven. Madbury and Newmarket experienced slight declines in median sale price, but Durham and Lee each improved 7%.

Tate and Foss SIR brokered the biggest sale in Newmarket, though Durham saw the region's highest price. That was an impressive $2.445 million for 345 Bay Road, a 9,000sf residence on 17+ acres with 1230 feet of Great Bay frontage. The property had been on the market for four years.

Coming back to earth, Madbury and Durham each had modest median sales prices at $390,000, the region's priciest towns. Durham sellers had to wait 101 days to sell their homes or 151% more than last year. That ties Durham with Newington as the town with the longest DOM. Again, this may all come down in large part to the town tax rate which is $26.80. The rate had been as high as $30.64 in 2017.

Seacoast Lakes Area

The Seacoast Lakes Area offers a relaxed, water-oriented life style in a rural setting. Yet the option to commute to Manchester, the Seacoast or Concord is easily do-able. Infrastructure improvements have been on-going and, coupled with affordability, have made the region increasingly attractive to buyers.

The most obvious proof of all this was a 13% jump in median price, far and away the highest improvement of any market area. Nottingham, where sales volume improved 26%, saw an impressive 27% increase in median sale price-to a still affordable $375,000. In Strafford, sales surged an even more impressive 35% although median prices slipped 2% to $295,000, lowest of the four market towns.

Barrington had the region's most sales-an 8% improvement from 2018. There were no $1 million sales in the region, but each town had a transaction of more than $630,000. The biggest transaction was $709,000 in Strafford, a Tate and Foss SIR sale. For the record, that was a residence on Bow Lake with a dock.

The Lakes Area is a market that bears watching over the months ahead. The region remains a very attractive option for Buyers looking for "quality of living" at an affordable price.

Eliot and the Berwicks

With so much to offer, this rural market area in southern Maine nevertheless struggled to maintain new-found sales momentum from this time last year. The region has outstanding public schools and Berwick Academy, access to great health care, homes in pastoral settings and abundant aquatic recreational activities on the Cocheco, Salmon Falls and Piscataqua Rivers.

Despite all that, homes were taking 114 days to sell, slowest of any market on either side of the Piscataqua. Volume dropped 11%--again topping all markets for biggest decline. Yet median prices still increased 7% to a very affordable $295,000, some $240,000 less than Greater Portsmouth.

There were no million-dollar sales in the region with highest prices coming in somewhere south of $665,000. Berwick, South Berwick and Eliot all sustained double-digit decreases in sales volume with only North Berwick showing a gain-and a substantial one at that: 75%. Not coincidently, North Berwick had the lowest median sale price at $269,950. Eliot prices jumped 11% to a region-high $375,900.

The popular modern buying demographic prefers, as we've said, a downtown with "things to do," great schools and meaningful employment to name a few. All that's missing in this market area is a vibrant downtown space.

Southern York County Coast

Talk about "things to do." Take US Route One north from Kittery to the Kennebunks and its easy to see that this area is exploding. You'll discover a myriad of new businesses, hotels and restaurants all mostly catering to a thriving seasonal market. Here were more sales than any other market.

Wells, anchored by the beach and popular Drake's Island, is perhaps the epicenter of the Southern York County seasonal market. The town recorded 185 sales, most in the region. Kennebunk and York also had triple digit sales, enough to support an historically thriving real estate industry.

There were, of course, million-dollar transactions in every town, including a $3.7 million transaction in Kennebunkport, the largest in the region. The Bushes may be gone, but the median sale price soared here to $810,000-a 47% gain. To be sure, New Castle and Rye Beach had median sale prices that each topped $1 million dollars, the only towns with a higher median. But those numbers were computed on a total of 11 sales between the two towns. There were 23 sales in Kennebunkport, making that quaint little village the region's true playground of the "rich and famous."

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