Sales of homes in Anne Arundel County lagged in December, dropping 27 percent and mirroring regional trends, a county real estate trade group reports.
During the past few weeks, though, local Realtors say they have noticed the market picking up -- an indicator, they say, that better times lie ahead.
Prices in December stayed fairly stable, with homes selling for an average $147,755, compared with $148,208 in December 1989, the AnneArundel County Association of Realtors said.
During that month, 211 single- and multifamily homes sold, compared with 291 in December 1989.
"That reflects a lot of uncertainty with financial markets and the Mideast," said Lynn Dulin, association president. But "the financial situation is getting better with the drop in interest rates."
Anne Arundel did not suffer the December slowdown alone. In Baltimore and in Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Kent counties, 26 percent fewer homes sold during the month, the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors said.
The Baltimore region saw a slightly smaller drop than in recent months. Sales had fallen 30 percent in October and 29 percent in November.
The 3,100-member county association listedthe total value of homes sold in December at $31 million, down fromlast December's $43 million total value.
Last year, 4,306 homes sold in Anne Arundel. Home sales fell 6 percent from 1989, when 4,599 homes sold.
Still, the average home price increased by 4 percent last year, to $156,019 from $152,063 in 1989, said Tammy McIntyre, computer clerk at the county association.
In previous years, home values rose by as much as 18 percent from one year to the next, she said.
Residential real estate might have hit a low in December, but the market could be turning around, Dulin said.
"Interest rates aretheir lowest in 10 years and it's a good time to buy," she said. "I'm hearing residential agents say things have picked up."
Rich Dobry, broker at RE/MAX Spirit Inc. of Severna Park, agreed.
"Low interest rates are starting to hit home a little bit," Dobry said. "It's not a peak market, but it's starting to get busy. People who look in January buy in March and settle in June."
The county association has joined with the Maryland Association of Realtors in a campaign to persuade consumers to buy now. Realtors have coordinated open houses in Anne Arundel and throughout the state the weekend of Feb. 23.
"This is a great time to be out there, particularly for first-time homebuyers," Dulin said.
The county's inventory of homes includes 276 units valued at less than $100,000, 9 percent of the market.
Homes that range in price from $100,000 to $150,000 make up 33 percent ofthe market, with more than a thousand homes available. And 18 percent of the market -- 563 homes -- includes homes priced between $150,000 and $200,000.
In the upper end, homes valued at $200,000 to $250,000 make up 11 percent of the market, with 336 units available.
Nine percent of the inventory -- 289 homes -- sells for between $250,000 and $300,000. And homes costing $300,000 or more make up 20 percent of the market, with 651 homes available, the county association reports.