Throughout the mid-Atlantic region, new home sales have slumped as potential homebuyers worry about their jobs and hold tight to their money.
But not so in Anne Arundel County, according to Legg Mason Realty Group Inc.
"Anne Arundel County has been in the forefront of the residentialreal estate market over the last 18 months," said Bob Lefenfeld, Legg Mason vice president. "Nowhere have there been increases in sales like in Anne Arundel."
While many areas began feeling the real estate crunch in 1989, the county's new home sales actually rose from 1989 to 1990 -- from 1,474 to 1,733, Lefenfeld said. At the same time, sales dropped regionwide, from 9,836 in 1989 to 8,232 in 1990.
The countywide trend continued this year, with Anne Arundel capturing 25 percent of the region's new home sales through September, Lefenfeld said.
Arundel has attracted a large share of potential homebuyers because of its large supply of new homes, a result of increased sewer capacity in Crofton and three new planned unit developments in West County -- Russett Center, Piney Orchard and Seven Oaks. In 1990, two-thirds of the Baltimore region's new projects were built in Anne Arundel County, according to the Legg Mason report.
Out of 17 "market areas" that Legg Mason studies, Odenton/Crofton was the top seller.
During July, August and September, 543 new homes sold in the county -- a 42 percent jump from last year's third quarter, Housing Market Profiles shows. Statistics from the Anne Arundel Board of Realtors show sales of new and resale homes increased from 285 last October to 301 this October.
"It's been pretty strong," said Chris Coile, president of Champion Realty, which he says has sold 20 percent more homesthan at this time last year. "Builders have listened to what the market is asking for and responded with a new product."
Builders havelowered prices by scaling back standard features or offering typically standard features as optional, Coile said.
That strategy has worked in Annapolis' Oxford Landing, which has single-family attached duplexes in the $100,000 range, and where Champion has sold 20 homes in the past four months. It's worked as well in Shannon Green, where builders have kept prices at $150,000. Champion sold 10 homes in that Severn development in the past two months, Coile said.
Lou Crist, owner of Century 21/Crist Realty Inc., who sells both new and previously owned homes, said that compared with this time last year, the agency's sales have risen about 22 percent in Odenton, Glen Burnie, Pasadena, Linthicum and Millersville. Homes in those areas sell for an average of $100,000, she said.
"We feel the market is improving," Crist said. "We've seen new home sales pick up recently. With prices down and interest rates down, it's a good time to buy."
Though saleshave risen since last year, they haven't caught up to 1991's second-quarter levels, a mini-boom Lefenfeld attributes to post-war euphoria. Sales of single-family homes dropped from 301 in the second quarterto 246 in the third quarter, he said.
Sales of previously owned homes are not as strong.
Rich Dobry, a broker with RE/MAX Spirit Inc. in Severna Park, said sales dropped from 8 percent to 10 percent from last year, and about 20 percent from 1989, the last good year.