Sales of single-family homes and condominiums in Harford grew at a faster rate than the Baltimore metropolitan region as a whole during the first half of the year, a recent study says.
Single-family home sales in Harford increased 12 percent during the first six months of this year compared to the first six months of 1989, the study published by Rufus S. Lusk & Son Inc. says.
In comparison, the Baltimore metropolitan region as a whole had a 1 percent drop in home sales the first six months of the year, over the first six months of 1989, the study says.
Harford also outpaced the Baltimore region in condominium sales growth.
Condominium sales rose 70 percent during the first six months of this year from the first six months of 1989, the report says. In the Baltimore region the rise was only 16 percent.
"Harford County was the most stellar performer," company president Rufus S. Lusk III said. "Harford County is one of the strongest areas in Maryland in terms of home building and absorption."
Harford's 12 percent increase in home sales was the greatest among jurisdictions in the Baltimore metropolitan region. Harford's 70 percent increase in the number of condos sold was topped only by Carroll County's 86 percent increase.
Lusk offered a number of reasons for Harford's performance in the study.
First, home and condo prices in the county are lower than in most other jurisdictions. For example, the median price of a single-family home during the six-month study period was $123,323 in Harford, compared to $189,500 in Howard County.
"You haven't had the rapid run-up in prices that have been so painful to the D.C. metro area," Lusk said.
Single-family home median prices in Harford rose 7 percent to $123,970 in the first half of the year from $116,374 in the same period last year.
However, the rise in the median price for condominiums was the greatest in the Baltimore metropolitan area, the report says. Median condo prices rose 30 percent to $89,031 in the first half of the year from $68,325 at the same period last year.
Another factor buoying Harford's real estate market is lower land prices.
Unlike in much of the region, land prices in the county haven't suffered from "speculative excess," Lusk said.
Generally, Lusk said, the housing market reflects Harford's strong economy. He noted major companies have chosen sites in Harford for their operations. Since the start of the year, The Clorox Co., The Gap and a General Electric appliance distributor have announced plans to put distribution centers in the county.
Joan Ryder, a real estate agent and president of the Harford Association of Realtors, said home sales have been exceptionally good this year.
"We've been very busy," she said. "This is the best year I've had."
So far, Ryder said, she's had more than $9 million in sales. In a typical year she does $7 million to $9 million in sales, she said.
"There are still a lot of buyers out there," she said. Many people are looking to buy homes now because of the perception -- which Ryder said she doesn't share -- that interest rates will rise and hike the cost of borrowing money.
While homes are selling, Ryder said, they are staying on the market longer.
Normally, if a house is priced right, it will be on the market for 30 days to 45 days.
"Now you could increase that to 45 to 60 days," she said.