Housing prices not bouncing back here as fast as in most of country

LACONIA – The good news is the stock of available houses for sale in Central New Hampshire is dropping; the not-so-good news is that while more houses are being sold the median selling price is not rising.
Roy Sanborn of Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and a regular Daily Sun columnist said a good number of sales in the Lakes Region are in the low range, bringing down the median price.
"The nicer, high-end stuff is still waiting for buyers," Sanborn said.
As of June 1, Lakes Region current inventory levels, said Sanborn, represent a 15-month supply of houses with 1,190 homes for sales. On June 1, 2012, there was an 18.5-month supply of available homes for sale.
As the number of available units shrinks typically the price of the remaining units rises. However the average asking price as of June 1 was $493,820 up only slightly from $480,614 as of June 1, 2012. The median asking price as of June 1 was $264,950, which Sanborn attributes to many more houses on the less-expensive side exerting downward pressure on the median asking price.
Economist Russ Thibeault of Applied Economic Research in Laconia and Sanborn both said the state and the Lakes Region has a long way to go to reach the property values like they saw in 2005.
"We still lost 20 percent of value," said Thibeault who added that New Hampshire and New England saw a relatively mild housing bust than did other parts of the county like Florida, Southern California and Las Vegas.
Thibeault said the beginning of the drop in housing values in New Hampshire began in earnest in 2007 — not in 2005 like housing markets outside New England. Thibeault also said the drop in value the state was more gradual than in other parts of the company where built and nearly-built houses were available for next to nothing.
He also said there is still a high foreclosure rate in New Hampshire but sees the tide is ebbing and said new foreclosures would likely drop over the next few years.
Sanborn and Thibeault said the lack of increase in well-paying jobs also contributes to central New Hampshire's slower recovery.
Overall, said Thibeault, there has been an increase in service-related jobs in north-central New Hampshire but they typically don't pay enough for people to save for a mortgage down-payment yet qualify for one.
Both said the southern part of the state is seeing more increases in the value of homes than north central New Hampshire. Sanborn said there are even small housing bubbles in the Bedford-Manchester area.
Conversely, people with cash have been "sitting on the sidelines without a penalty," said Thibeault. He said the recent uptick in mortgage lending rates is lightly to spur cash-laden people — including property investors — to start buying homes again and this is good in then short term for the local economy.
"As long as interest rates don't go crazy, I see housing values growing in the near future," Thibeault said.
Short-term stagnant home values is a "silver lining" for new home buyers, said Jennifer McCall of Merrimack Mortgage Company who said the lower median entry point coupled with historically low mortgage interest rates means people who couldn't previously buy now can.
She also said she has recently seen an increase in the number of sales for cash — a phenomenon explained by local economist Thibeault as a way people with cash can invest their money and not be subjected to the Wall Street roller coaster ride of the stock and bond markets or the equally historical low interest rates offered by conventional bank savings instruments such as CDs.
Sanborn said there were a number of second home sales this past year, which would be consistent with people with lots of cash spending it rather than saving it.
And cash or equity in an existing home is key to getting a mortgage for a new one.
McCall said nearly all mortgage lenders are playing by the same rules — those established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac the primary government-sponsored buyers of mortgages in the country — and those rules are much more conservative than the free-wheeling days of the mid-2000s when lax mortgage-lending practices contributed heavily to the housing bubble and subsequent crash.
"Not only does your credit have to be perfect, your house has to be in very good condition," said McCall, who noted appraisers now are nearly as strict as building inspectors.
"But, money is really inexpensive to borrow," she said, saying that while rates should stay low for the short-term foreseeable future, it's not likely to get any cheaper to buy a home in the area.
"Its a great time to come to New Hampshire," she said. "With a job and decent credit, people can come here and get affordable housing."