County Bucks Trend, New Home Sales Rise Last Year

March 04, 1991|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writer

The county has bucked a regional real estate trend with an increase in new home sales, a realty group reports.

In the midst of a recession and the Persian Gulf war, sales of new homes fell in 1990 throughout the Baltimore region -- except in Anne Arundel, where sales shotup 17 percent, said Legg Mason Realty Group Inc.

Legg Mason's quarterly housing market profile showed that as the economic slowdown took its toll on the Baltimore area last year, 8,232 new homes were sold, 16 percent fewer than in 1989.

The profile surveyed all new subdivisions of 20 or more homes in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties and Baltimore city.

Only Anne Arundel recorded an increase, with sales of new homes rising from 1,474 in 1989 to 1,733 in 1990. Howard County suffered the region's most severe drop in sales, a 44 percent decline.

"There was an extraordinary expansion of inventory, specifically in the Odenton area and the Crofton area, with a newly available sewer in 1989, which attracted builders," said Bob Lefenfeld, vice president of Legg Mason Realty Group. "An ancillary trend was the fact that Howard County was going through a building permit cap at the same time."

Although the new homes market fared well, the county suffered a decline in overall sales of homes, including new and previously owned.

In 1990, 5,941 homes were sold, compared with 7,119 in 1989, said Alexander D. Speer, county demographer in the Department of Planning and Zoning.

Speer does not track new home sales, but did not find the increase surprising.

"I think Anne Arundel County has a much better product mix for today's market, a lot of very affordable units," Speer said.

Prices of new homes in the Baltimore region either stayed at 1989 levels or dropped slightly. Overall, the median base price for a new home dipped 1 percent from the third to the fourth quarter, to $166,950. The median base price of a county home dipped 3 percent from the third to the fourth quarter, to $185,990, Lefenfeld said.

But that doesn't necessarily mean housing prices will soon decline.

"The mix changed," Lefenfeld said. "A few more lower-priced products were introduced to offset the high-priced products."

Average home prices in the county have continued to rise, jumping from

$147,905 in 1989 to $155,456 in 1990.

The town house market, the most affordable, fared the best, the survey found. Town houses accounted for almosthalf the sales in the Baltimore region.

Although sales of town houses rose in Arundel as well -- from 479 in 1989 to 629 in 1990 -- town houses did not sell proportionately better than did other housing types, Lefenfeld said.

Despite a slow regional market, builders went ahead with a record number of new projects, in most cases because they had financing, Legg Mason reported.

Of 207 new developments in the region, one-quarter opened in the county, primarily in Odenton and Crofton.

Developers will build 15,000 new homes in Odenton over the next decade, in Piney Orchard, Seven Oaks and Russett Center. Homes went on sale last summer at the 4,700-unit Seven Oaks.

"Because the sales pace is down, projects are not selling out," Lefenfeld said. "There will be a significant inventory of new home lots available in the region."

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