April 19, 2010

Spring has come early, and that’s another reason to celebrate

— By Peter Francese

Here are three things New Hampshire REALTORS® can celebrate this spring:

  • Home sales are up 13 percent, condo sales are up 30 percent, and prices are up over the first quarter of 2009;
  • New Hampshire non-farm employment is rising: we’re only state in region to see an increase; and
  • Our state still leads region in the key index of economic activity, and it is also rising

Not only are New Hampshire home sales up over the first quarter of last year, but median home prices have also risen 6 percent statewide and are up in seven of our state’s 10 counties. Condominium prices are also 4 percent above the first quarter of last year.

The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the New Hampshire Association of REALTORS®.  NHAR has taken no officlal position on the matter of expanded gambling in New Hampshire.

Half the counties in our state saw double digit home sales increase over last year, which suggests an awfully fast start for the year, no doubt aided by the homebuyer’s tax credit. But economic indicators in our state are so much better than other New England states that tax break or none, we are likely to fare better than they will in terms of home sales, unless we choose to follow their lead with expanded gambling.

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in February (the latest numbers available), which was more than two points below the national rate and the second lowest in New England (Please see charts below). But the unemployment rate only looks at the small part of the picture.

The full part is measured by total non-farm employment, which in New Hampshire has been increasing since the middle of last year. Since then, 11,000 more people are working in our state, and we’re the only state in the region where that’s happening.

These indicators of New Hampshire’s economic health both point in the same direction. Our state is on track to lead New England out of this awful recession, and our real estate market is also likely to recover faster than other nearby states.

New Hampshire was again voted as the safest state in the nation, and we are still ranked fourth in terms of economic activity index. That index is also rising and is up almost three points since mid-2009. Again, we are the only New England state where that measure of our economic well-being has increased since then. 

On nearly every measure of quality of life, as well as many other indicators, New Hampshire leads the nation and all other New England states. But our longstanding New Hampshire advantage is being threatened as never before by the rush to permit slots and casinos. To lose our substantial advantage would be an irreversible tragedy.

Here’s just one example: Property taxes per person in 2007 in Connecticut were $2,313.42, compared to $1,917.83 in New Hampshire (17 percent less than Connecticut), according to the Census Bureau. Adding lots of gambling venues certainly hasn’t done much to lower Connecticut's property taxes.

The bottom line is this: Both demographic and economic trends are quite negative for the Southern New England states. Income taxes and sales taxes, along with slot machines and casino gambling, have not improved either their economy or their demography. Do we really want to do what they have done and go where they have gone?

Table I: New Hampshire unit sales and median price first quarter 2010

Unit sales
1Q 2010
% change

Median $
1Q 2010
% change
Belknap 119 +16% $180,000 +10%
Carroll 107 -7% $178,000 +5%
Cheshire 88 -1% $159,950 -3%
Coos 57 -7% $100,000 +67%
Grafton 125 +24% $170,000 +14%
Hillsborough 482 +4% $217,450 -1%
Merrimack 227 +38% $190,000 +3%
Rockingham 437 +19% $252,000 +4%
Strafford 181 +20% $190,000 +7%
Sullivan 62 0% $131,500 -9%
Statewide 1,885 13% $207,000 +6%


Chart 1: Index derived from total nonfarm employment, unemployment rate, average hours worked in manufacturing plus wage and salary disbursements.
Chart II: Bureau of Labor Statistics


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New Hampshire
Association of REALTORS®

PO Box 550
115A Airport Road
Concord, NH 03302-0550
Telephone: 603-225-5549
Fax: 603-228-0385