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January 25, 2013 | last updated January 25, 2013 11:38 am

New index captures real estate trends

A new metric for gauging Maine's real estate market shows some modestly encouraging news.

At its annual conference Thursday, the Maine Real Estate and Development Association unveiled a new market-tracking index that compares indicators back to 2006.

While the MEREDA Index's big picture shows steady declines in real estate sectors since that pre-recession boom year, the last year shows modest gains from the lows hit in mid-2011.

Charles Colgan, an economist with the Muskie School of Public Service who worked with MEREDA to develop the new index, said during its unveiling that the fourth quarter of 2012 showed encouraging gains but he was unsure whether that could be called a trend.

The index bases trends on six factors: construction employment, housing permits, mortgages for purchase, median home price, sales of existing units and commercial sales.

Overall, the last year provided mixed signs along those measures, with the second and third quarters of 2012 showing small declines and the first and fourth quarters showing modest gains.

Colgan said the index remains in a "beta version" and that the final product will incorporate better historical data on commercial real estate sales.

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