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Recovery In Mass. Housing Market? Not So Fast04:30
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A sale pending sign is posted outside a home in Andover on Dec. 22, 2009. (AP)
A sale pending sign is posted outside a home in Andover on Dec. 22, 2009. (AP)

Figures released Tuesday by The Warren Group show positive growth in the state's housing market, but a Boston real-estate analyst is not ready to call it recovery yet.

The data show a 17 percent increase in December sales, compared to the year before — the sixth straight month of increases. Prices of single-family homes jumped 10 percent in December.

Vincent Valvo, editor-in-chief of Banker & Tradesman, which is owned by the Boston-based Warren Group, explained the numbers on WBUR's Morning Edition Tuesday.

"We always love to cheer any good news, but I take it with a little bit of salt in that it is a one-month number and is going against December 2008 — which, economically, was a pretty bad month," Valvo said.

Valvo also cited the ongoing home-buyer federal tax credit as a reason for the rise in sales.

Tuesday's December housing report follows last week's mixed report on home foreclosures. In 2009, the number of completed foreclosures decreased 25 percent, compared to 2008, but foreclosure petitions rose 28 percent.

Valvo sees that rise in petitions — the first step in foreclosure — as cause for concern.

"I believe that prices have not yet stabilized, and I believe they are going to continue to decline," Valvo said. "More properties are going to be repossessed by banks, which means they are going to be competing with your house, my house, in the market. That is going to drive prices down further."

Valvo sees potential for broader recovery in the spring, as inventory edges back up and the home-buyer tax credit is extended. He predicts "a good January and February" will continue to build consumer confidence.

"When you have almost a year of reports saying that home sales are increasing, that's going to drive more people into the market if they were holding back before," Valvo said.

Ultimately, he said, a complete housing turnaround depends on stemming the state's job losses. The Massachusetts unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent last month.

"If we don't see a lessening of job losses, however, people are not going to be in the market to put down several hundred thousand dollars down on a new purchase," Valvo said.


Click "Listen Now" to hear the interview with Vincent Valvo.

This program aired on January 26, 2010.

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