Real estate sales down from same time last year

September 08, 1991|By Ellen James Martin

Baltimore real estate sales skidded in August below levels for the same month in 1990, according to the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

The number of residential units that were between contract and settlement was down 11 percent -- to 1,305 -- at the end of August 1991 compared with the same point a year earlier, board statistics show.

Settled sales on residential units dropped to 1,499 last month, down 17 percent from August 1990, the figures show.

"Everyone in the real estate industry is hurting very badly," Mary Bell Grempler, president of Grempler Realty Inc., said in response to the statistics.

Tight credit standards on the part of mortgage lenders have hurt the real estate industry by causing many sales to fall through before settlement, Ms. Grempler said.

With mortgage rates at relatively low levels, many prospective buyers have entered the real estate market in search of homes.

But about 10 percent of the people who sign home contracts are unable to obtain loans amid the current credit crunch, Ms. Grempler estimated. Normally, 5 percent or fewer deals fall through due to financing, she said.

Such problems are national rather than local to the Baltimore-area market, Ms. Grempler emphasized.

Fletcher R. Hall, executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board, said summer real estate sales have been restrained by the recession. Many people who might normally be buying a first home or trading up to more expensive housing have delayed their housing moves due to fears they could lose their jobs.

"This year has been exasperated by the reality of a white-collar recession in which decision-making has been postponed," he said.

Even under the best economic circumstances, the summer months usually represent a slow period for real estate, Mr. Hall added.

"Many people don't make a lot of major buying decisions in August, concentrating instead on getting the kids ready for school and getting their vacations in," he said.

The dollar volume of settled sales was down 12 percent to $197.7 million in August 1991 compared with the same period last year.

The summer may have been a slow period for Baltimore-area real estate. Still, many potential homeowners in the region showed their confidence in the future by putting their homes on the market in August.

The number of new listings rose 22 percent in August -- to 3,377 units -- compared with the same month last year.

"With newly reduced interest rates, we should see increased activity this fall," predicted Brandon F. Gaines, president of the Greater Baltimore Board.

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