Real estate agents say continued tight inventory and fewer than usual purchases in January contributed to a double-digit decrease in York County housing sales in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2018.

Figures released last week by the Maine Association of Realtors show that there were 501 existing single-family homes sold countywide from Jan. 1 through March 31 of this year – down from 560 in 2018, a decrease of 10.5 percent. Statewide, existing home sales were down 5.58 percent for the first quarter.

Prices, however, held steady. The median single-family home price in York County dropped less than one-half of 1 percent in the first quarter of 2019 over the same period in 2018, to $275,000 from $276,200, the Realtors association said. Statewide, the median price was at $205,000 for the first quarter of this year, up from $202,500 a year ago.

Julie Grady, president of the York County Council of the Maine Association of Realtors, said most of the first-quarter slump occurred in January. She said sales in York County for February and March were the same as the previous year.

She said low inventories across all price ranges are affecting sales.

“If buyers don’t see that they want, they wait,” Grady said.

Steve Cabana, an agent with Town Square Realty Group in Sanford, said he also attributes the fewer number of sales to the lack of inventory, particularly for those who are just entering the market.

“There’s a lack of inventory for first-time home buyers … and for what they qualify for, the price point, that’s what I’m seeing,” Cabana said. “I don’t see it being a depressed marked at all, not in the foreseeable future.”

He pointed out that across Sanford, there are just 50 active properties available, and believes that number should be around 120 to 150. He said the 50 active listings span the price range from $100,000 to $500,000. Cabana said there have been times when there were fewer than 50 homes actively on the market.

He said there are an equal number of homes under contract in the city.

“What we typically see, when something comes on the market, there is such a buyer pool, it’s just two or three days and its under contract,” he said. “We have buyers, qualified buyers, and not enough inventory.”

Cabana said winter weather does have an impact, and the partial government shutdown that stretched from Dec. 22 to Jan. 25 played a role, since some sales couldn’t proceed, depending on the loan program involved.

“We’re coming into the busiest season right now,” Grady said. “I anticipate the numbers will be back on track.”