Howard home sales up market lags in Carroll

May 19, 1991|By Audrey Haar | Audrey Haar,SOURCE RUFUS S. LUSK & SON INCSOURCE RUFUS S. LUSK & SON INC

Home sales in Howard County are finally beginning to rise says Robert Molloy, vice president and sales manager of the Howard County office of Prudential Preferred Properties.

Average house prices in Howard County are currently at $124,000, and higher-priced houses are coming back into the market, he noted Thursday.

The Howard County office of Prudential recently listed a multimillion-dollar home. "We haven't done that for a long time," Mr. Molloy said.

During the real estate slowdown, sellers have been more aggressively marketing their homes, he said. Some examples: offering homeowner warranties, lowering prices and paying the points instead of splitting them with buyers.

He said he was pleased with all the signs that the real estate market in Howard County is turning around and that business is picking up.

"In the first 20 days of this month, I will do [the business] that I did in 30 days last month," Mr. Molloy said.

Howard County, in fact, was the only bright spot in a recent regional survey of building activity.

For the region, the number of building permits issued during the first quarter of 1991 was the lowest quarterly total since the recession year of 1982. Permits issued by local governments fell 52 percent compared with the first quarter of 1990.

But in Howard County, 297 permits were issued during the first quarter of 1991, compared with the 208 permits issued during the first quarter last year. Figures on building permits were included in a report issued by the Baltimore Regional Council of Governments.

The sales picture in Carroll County has not been as bright.

"Carroll County is the only area that has not made the turn out of the recession," said Carl Starner, manager of the Westminster office of Long & Foster Realtors.

"Sales across the county continue to be sluggish . . . but there is no reason that Carroll County won't turn around like the surrounding counties," he said.

He said April sales in Carroll County are 12 percent below the April 1990 totals, and are 23 percent behind last year's total figures.

The good news for the Carroll area is that prices have stabilized. "Prices are not too bad and interest rates are good. Our problem is consumer confidence [in the market], Mr. Starner said.

Rather than aggressively marketing homes, sellers are waiting for the market to turn around and are refusing to lower asking prices, turning away shoppers trying to profit from the recession with low-ball offers.

"They feel a better market is around the corner," said Mr. Starner.

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