New data for the Silver Spring consulting firm Rufus S. Lusk & Son, Inc. confirm what everyone already knows -- that the real estate market in Howard and Carroll counties was depressed in December.
Home sales in Howard fell 35 percent, compared with December 1989, to 252 homes, wrapping up a year in which Howard County home sales fell 17 percent, Lusk said. The median price of a single-family detached home or town house in Howard rose 4 percent to $215,100 for the year.
A Lusk official said, however, that the market in Carroll and Howard counties is probably healthier than the statistics suggest.
"I'd say the reports are a little bit deceiving," said Carol Stewart, a vice president of Lusk who works in the company's Timonium office. "This is ancient history. Today's outlook is quite different, because interest rates are lower, consumer confidence has improved, and sellers are more realistic. Everybody I'm hearing is expecting a much-improved spring."
Carroll County's market was even softer than Howard's in December, though slightly healthier than Howard for all of 1990.
Carroll County buyers closed deals on 134 detached homes and town houses in December, down 30 percent from December 1989. For the full year, 2,183 homes were sold in the county, down only 3 percent from the previous year's total.
The median price of a home in Carroll County was $128,849 for the year, up 13 percent, according to the Lusk report. But in December, the median price of a home was only $116,629, down 5 percent from December 1989.
Lusk's data is based on settled house sales in public records. It can take up to three months from an agreement to sell to a settlement, because of the time needed to arrange a mortgage loan and to handle other details. So, the December settlement data largely reflects sales agreed upon earlier in the fall.
Because of the method Lusk uses to track the market, it could take six months for the revival that some agents contend is occurring to turn up in the statistics, Ms. Stewart said.
However, a recent report from the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors said that home sales in Howard County dropped 13 percent in February, compared with February 1990. In Carroll County, February home sales were 21 percent below 1990's level.