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Mass. Home Sellers Sweat Slow Spring Market

This article is more than 12 years old.

The spring market for home sales is underway, but so far it’s slow for this time of year. Take an open house this past weekend in normally busy Jamaica Plain.

"It's a buyer’s market," said Realtor Joe Fallon, who was waiting for potential buyers to stop in. "People can get something that they’re in love with, rather than something that they feel they have to hurry up and move on. It just takes a little longer."

A little longer, or a lot longer? That's the question that three Massachusetts home owners have as they view the spring housing market.

Seller No. 1: Jim Corrigan, 31 Old Diamond St., Walpole

Jim Corrigan and his wife live in a townhouse, the middle one of three. In a couple of weeks they will put it on the market.

"The process is awful," he said. "It’s just always there. It’s this thing you always think about. It can affect your day at the random time. It’s just not a pleasant process."

This listing photo shows a townhouse at 35 Diamond St., which is attached to the 31 Diamond St. townhouse in Walpole.
This listing photo shows a townhouse at 35 Diamond St., which is attached to the 31 Diamond St. townhouse in Walpole.

Corrigan said that from experience — he put this same townhouse on the market back in 2005. It languished for 10 months and won only a single offer, and a low one at that. The Corrigans turned it down, and they never sold the place.

The irony is, Corrigan said, if he got that same offer today, "I would seriously consider it and probably take it."

Corrigan hopes it’ll be different this time. After all, he said, the economy is different.

"Stuff is better," Corrigan said. "It seems like all the people I know who lost jobs have a job again. So I feel like things are more normal now. Two, three years ago it was much scarier."

So the Corrigans are pricing their townhouse at $300,000. He thinks that’s a bargain, and that it should sell. But he's prepared for the worst, considering there are a lot of other houses on the market already.

"I won’t be shocked if we don’t sell it at all," Corrigan said.

Seller No. 2: Diane Sampson, 114 Newton St., Marlborough

The Sampsons (Diane's married) put their home on the market in December.

"From the holidays to about the end of March," Sampson said, "we were averaging about one showing a week."

Listing photo for 114 Newton St. in Marlborough
Listing photo for 114 Newton St. in Marlborough

Since then, though, nothing, and that surprises her. When the Sampsons were buying eight years ago, they fell in love with this three-story Victorian home with a wraparound porch and a turret. It was built by a catcher for the Boston Americans, the Red Sox precursor team that won the World Series in 1903.

The Sampsons spent $125,000 renovating it, but they’re only listing it now for $20,000 more than they paid for it. Diane said buyers don’t seem to be that serious right now.

"We actually had a garage sale this past weekend and we had a lot of people come through on Saturday," she said. "So it’s not like people are holed up in their houses. They’re dying to get out and do stuff. It’s just — are the buyers dying to get out and do stuff?"

At least in her market, for her type of house, apparently not — at least not yet. Sampson’s starting to get that sinking feeling.

"I would have expected some maybe low offers with room for negotiation," she said with incredulity. "But nothing?"

Seller No. 3: Pierre Dufilie, 5 Gunnar Drive, Marlborough

Around the peak of the housing boom is when Pierre Dufilie bought his three-bedroom, two-bath ranch-style home built in 1975. And a little over a month ago, he put it up for sale.

"The listing price right now, that’s $52,000 less than what I paid for it," Dufilie said stoically. "So it’s a significant loss."

Listing photo for 5 Gunnar Drive in Marlborough
Listing photo for 5 Gunnar Drive in Marlborough

Still, he said, a good number of prospective buyers have come through to look at it. At least one of them liked the home, which has a double garage and good access to I-495, enough to make an offer.

"But it was a bit of a low ball, though," Dufilie said. "So I’m hoping that someone will come along, maybe a little closer to what the rest of the market is looking like."

Pierre figures if it doesn’t sell, he’s just going to have to rent it out to bide time. And he’s OK with that. He didn’t even take that low ball offer personally.

"No!" Dufilie exclaimed. "Actually I’m encouraged if there’s a low ball offer. Because it’s an offer! The price may not be right, but it’s still someone who’s willing to put the time and effort into owning a home. That’s great! I hope I get a lot more low ball offers," he said, with a bit of a laugh.

This program aired on April 21, 2011.

Curt Nickisch Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.



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