House hunters anxious to qualify for a federal tax credit are generating lively sales activity in area towns. The intensifying interest among entry-level buyers has brought back symptoms of an overheated market not seen in years. Many properties garner multiple offers, some of them higher than the asking price.

House hunters anxious to qualify for a federal tax credit are generating lively sales activity in area towns. And towns such as Braintree, Stoughton and Weymouth, with a wide array of homes in the under-$300,000 category, are the epicenter of the market revival.


The intensifying interest among entry-level buyers has brought back symptoms of an overheated market not seen in years. Many properties garner multiple offers, some of them higher than the asking price.


“If we have a house come on the market, it’s not unusual to have a lot of people come in within the first day or two because there is a pent-up demand for that kind of property,” said Christopher Layton, broker-owner of Layton Real Estate in Stoughton.


The looming expiration of federal tax credits for home buyers is generating urgency among buyers. They have to sign an agreement to purchase by April 30 to qualify for the tax credits, which offer $8,000 for first-time buyers and up to $6,500 for move-up buyers.


Stoughton has the fastest-paced single-family market on the South Shore, with listings staying on the market an average of 89 days, according to the Shrewsbury-based MLS Property Information Network.


That compares with a current statewide average of 173 days, down from 206 a year ago. In general, homes that are selling for less than $450,000 are moving at a much faster clip than those that are above that mark.


Single-family homes in the $250,000 range are in short supply and sell the fastest if they’re in good shape, Layton said.


“It’s amazing how many people have come to look at houses and already lost out on five or 10 of them and are overbidding on the offer prices just so they think they can get it,” Layton said.


David Chrisos, a 25-year-old insurance broker, didn’t panic after being outbid on his first offer for a home in Stoughton. For a subsequent purchase, Chrisos offered $20,000 below the asking price for a three-bedroom raised ranch in town. He closed on the McGarvey Road property this week.


Chrisos said the town offers a mix of advantages, including a reasonable commute, shopping options such as Target and reasonable home prices. The median price of the homes on the market in Stoughton is $329,900, according to MLS.


“I feel like the housing market is really fair,” Chrisos said. “I don’t feel like it’s overpriced. It has a lot of different attractions, and everything seems to be pretty central.”


Quincy is another popular choice among first-time buyers, with 72 single-family homes currently listed at $350,000 or less.


“There is definitely increased activity, and those towns where the prices are low to moderate, that’s where the most activity is,” said Art Foley, broker-owner of Century 21 Annex Realty in Quincy.


Aggressively priced properties in Quincy tend to receive multiple offers, Foley said.


Foley attributed the uptick in buyer activity to the tax credit and the broad decline in prices since 2007 that has made single-family homes an option again for many entry-level buyers.


“Five or six years ago, there weren’t a lot of properties under $300,000 on the market,” Foley said.


And access to online listing data has accelerated the timetable of home-buying. Various services e-mail listings and photos to house hunters as soon as they’re listed.


“The information is being disseminated very quickly,” Foley said. “They know a good value when they see it, and they’ll hop on it.”


Still, changing conditions could take some air out of the market rally.


The Massachusetts Association of Realtors said this week that a survey of members charted continuing improvement in the market. But relatively low inventories coupled with rising sales could push prices back out of reach for many buyers, MAR President Kevin Sears said.


George Raymond, owner of Herbert Raymond & Sons Realty in Weymouth, expects the market to pick up steam in the next month.


Median listing prices in many towns, including Braintree, are higher than they were one year ago, which has made some sellers overconfident about their negotiating position, Raymond said.


“The buyers are negotiating hard, and the sellers are holding out, thinking that the prices are going up,” he said.


Patriot Ledger writer Steve Adams may be reached at sadams@ledger.com.