Home sales in metropolitan Baltimore continued their sharp decline during October and November, the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors reported yesterday.
Sales of existing homes fell 30.7 percent in October and 29.3 percent in November compared with the same months of 1989, according to a report compiled by the Central Maryland Multiple Listing Service, a subsidiary of the board.
"The message again is that we have a consumer confidence problem. That's clear," said Brandon F. Gaines, president of the Board of Realtors. But he said the news isn't all bad.
"The average dollar sale is holding its own," Mr. Gaines said. "It's a double-edged sword, I guess. . . . This is no great change. It's cyclical, and what we've experienced before."
Average prices are remaining stable, despite the drop in demand.
The average price of an existing home in November rose only 1 percent from November 1989, to $117,580.
The average price peaked for this year in August at $125,415 but moved lower in the fall of both 1989 and 1990.
The Realtors' data includes sales reported to the Multiple Listing Service in Baltimore and in Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Kent counties.
It includes only a few newly built homes because most new homes aren't listed with Realtors or sold through the Multiple Listing Service.
In Anne Arundel County, the number of existing homes sold in November fell to 219 from 447 in November 1989, a 51 percent drop, according to the Anne Arundel County Board of Realtors.
October sales were down 30.3 percent, to 285 homes.
The average price was up slightly in October, to $147,562, but dropped to $139,935 in November.
Anne Arundel County's figures are compiled differently from those of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.
Anne Arundel reports only the number of homes on which buyers have settled contracts.
Because of the time lag between when a buyer and seller agree on a deal and when a mortgage is lined up and the contract is settled, or closed, settlement data reflect sales patterns that can be up to three months old.
The Realtors board reports the numbers of homes that are under pending contracts, reflecting sales that are more recent but still could fall through if buyers can't find mortgages or other complications arise.
The new reports continue a trend that began during the third quarter.
Until then, home sales in and around Baltimore had remained stable compared with 1989, even as sales of homes nationwide slowed dramatically, particularly in the Northeast.
But sales of existing homes fell 20.5 percent during the third quarter in the Baltimore area, and sales of new homes fell 35 percent, according to a report by Legg Mason Realty Group of Baltimore.
Mr. Gaines and other industry experts note that though the market is slow, it isn't dead.
Pulte Home Corp.'s Baltimore division had its second-best month of the year in November, said Doug Lee, regional sales and marketing director.
And Mr. Lee said the industry could get a boost if a peaceful solution is found to the Persian Gulf crisis and the broader economy slips further toward a recession, pushing interest rates lower.
"If the Mideast situation clears up without bloodshed and the fourth-quarter economic numbers are low, I think interest rates will be 8.5 percent," he said.