Look at the Lakes

New Listings Grow in Lakes Region

But Agents Say Market Is Far Cry from Pre-Pandemic

An aerial view of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, USA

The statewide increase in new listings was more pronounced in the Lakes region this spring, which includes Belknap County and parts of neighboring Carroll, Strafford and Merrimack counties. iStock photo

The Lakes region is enjoying a surprising bump in new home listings and closed sales this spring, providing hope that potential sellers may be rethinking their recent strategy of staying put until interest rates fall.

Some industry figures also say new single-family home construction is helping boost sales in a region known for attracting affluent out-of-state buyers seeking vacation and remote-work get-aways.

Others caution, however, that the increases in listings and sales are coming off last year’s historic low inventories of homes on the market, making the spring percentage spikes look more impressive than they really are.

Still, stats are stats – and they’re pointing to improvements in the inventory picture compared to last year.

What the Numbers Say

After the dramatic decline in new listings in 2023, statewide single-family homes listed for sale were up about 14.4 percent through the first five months of 2024, to 5,755 units, compared to the same period in 2023, according to data from the New Hampshire Association of Realtors. Among others, Rockingham and Sullivan countries saw year-to-date increases in listings compared to last spring.

But the new-listings increase was more pronounced in the Lakes region, which includes Belknap County and parts of neighboring Carroll, Strafford and Merrimack counties.

Belknap’s year-to-date new listings jumped 33.7 percent, to 401 single-family homes, through the first five months of the year, compared to 2023.

Carroll County saw a 19 percent jump, to 388 homes, during the same time period; Strafford and Merrimack counties experienced 27 percent and 26.1 percent new-listing increases, respectively, according to NHAR data.

All four counties also saw big double-digit-percentage, year-to-date jumps in the actual number homes for sale in both April and May. And three of the four saw increases in closed year-to-date single-family sales through May 31, according to data. May data from The Warren Group, publisher of The Registry Review, was not available as of publication time.

Demand Still Outweighs Supply

Susan Bradley, a broker at Coldwell Banker Realty in Gilford, said she’s only mildly pleased with the year-to-date rise in new homes for sale.

“I’ve certainly seen an increase in listings,” said Bradley. “But I’m not seeing a dramatic increase, not compared to three years ago. The inventory is still low. The demand for homes still outweighs the supply.”

The Lakes region is a different market beast compared to other parts of New Hampshire, serving mostly second-home customers, many of them affluent buyers (and later sellers) from out-of-state.

But the Lakes region has suffered the same problem as other regions of New Hampshire: Demand for homes from both vacationers and year-round residents is outstripping supply, driving up home prices to record highs across the state.

May’s statewide median price for a single-family home stood at $525000, up 7.1 percent compared to 2023, according to NHAR data.

A Return to Normal?

Most industry players agree that higher interest rates – which began to rise in early 2023 – have discouraged existing owners from selling their homes. The reason: they don’t want to move from their current low-mortgage rates on homes to higher rates for newer homes, officials say.

Many potential sellers are also balking at putting their homes on the market if they can’t find affordable alternatives in the current competitive environment to buy homes.

Adam Dow, CEO of the Dow Group at Keller Williams in Wolfeboro, agreed that recent increases in new listings, homes for sale and closed sales are coming off of recent low inventories, distorting the spring market picture a bit.

But he said he’s encouraged because the inventory increases, while comparatively small, seem to resemble the pre-pandemic pattern of the Lakes region’s real estate market.

Traditionally, home listings increased in the early spring in the Lakes region. But actual sales only took off after summer residents arrived in droves around July, he said.

Dow said the region may now be seeing a “return back” to those old patterns.

“We have put homes on the market this spring, but they’re taking a bit longer to move,” he said.

Indeed, Dow said he’s doing second and even third showings on some properties, suggesting less of a buying frenzy as seen in the recent past.

“Right now, the inventory is building up a bit and I think we’re possibly going to see a strong July,” said Dow.

New Construction a Factor

Randy Parker, owner and broker at Maxfield Real Estate in Wolfeboro, said the supply side of the real estate market is still largely being driven by the old reliables – “death, divorce and job changes.”

Otherwise, most potential sellers are “holding firm,” declining to sell until interest rates fall and the market eases up a bit. “A lot of people are just frozen in place,” he said.

As a result, Parker’s Lakes region business remains down, in dollars, by about 15 percent compared to pre-pandemic years, Parker said.

But there has been a slight increase in listings this spring, compared to 2023, partly due to new construction in the region, he said.

“There are more homes being built than ever before, or so it seems,” he said.

Local contractors are buying up vacant land and building homes on spec, while others are purchasing older homes and then tearing them down to make room for new larger abodes, he said.

Based in Gilford, Bradley said she’s seeing “some new construction but not a lot.”

Instead, the current market roughly resembles last year, though with slightly higher inventory.

“I’m busy,” she said. “It’s going well. But I still have more buyers than I do sellers. I don’t see that changing soon. We need more supply.”