The Market In Harford . . .

New Home Sales In County Drop 11% In Past Year

November 24, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

New home sales dropped 11 percent in the Harford County during the past 12 months, a new report says.

But Harford does have a few bright spots in the housing market, among them the Route 24 corridor thatremains one of the hottest real estate markets in the Baltimore area.

Harford was the only county in the metropolitan area to experience a loss in sales of new homes over the past 12 months compared to the previous year, said Bob Lefenfeld, vice president of the Legg MasonRealty Group Inc., which conducted a study of new homes sales in themetro area over the past 12 months.

New home sales reported in Harford during the period from Sept. 30, 1990 to Sept. 30, 1991 were 2,011 units, down from 2,254 during the previous 12 months, Lefenfeld said the study showed.

"Sales are down a little bit in Harford County," he said. "In relative terms, the Bel Air and Route 24 corridor are still among the top-selling corridors in the region."

Legg Mason's report reflects only new home sales.

Reports by Rufus S. Lusk & Son Inc. and the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors Inc. track sales of existing and new homes. Those reports show declines in all metropolitan counties.

Lusk reported that home sales -- existing and new -- in Harford fell 24 percent from January to August 1991, compared with the same time period in 1990.

In comparison, Anne Arundel home sales were down 17 percent; Baltimore County down 18 percent; Carroll down 26 percent; Howard down 23 percent.

During the third quarter of 1991, 1,998 new homes sales were recorded in the Baltimore region, which includes Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Carroll counties. Sales were up 19 percent in the region compared to thethird quarter of 1990 when 1,683 sales were reported.

Sales of new homes in Harford during the third quarter, however, dropped 16 percent -- from 383 homes in 1990 to 360 homes in 1991, Lefenfeld said.

Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties are capturing a growing share of the region's sales, he said. Sales in Anne Arundel were up 42 percent during the third quarter from the previous year.

Still, Harford's housing market has grown tremendously in recent years because low land costs has made new housing affordable, Lefenfeld said.

However, builders in other areas have figured out ways to address that market segment, he said. "There's more competition at that price level than in the last couple of years," Lefenfeld said.

The median-based price of a new home in Harford County was $160,900 in October, up $1,000 from the previous October. In comparison, the median based price of home in the Baltimore region dropped from $198,500 to $195,623.

The median-based price means there are an equal number of homes priced above and below the figure.

Riverside, a community south of Aberdeen, continues to be one of the hottest housing markets in Harford.A number of developers, including Ryland Homes, Keystone and the Henry Knott Development Co. found sales brisk there this past year.

The Knott Co. has sold 23 of its 72-unit condominium complex in Riverside, off Route 95 and Riverview Parkway. The condominiums, which feature one- and two-bedroom units, range in price from $55,900 to the mid-$60,000s. They seem to be attracting first-time home buyers and empty nesters.

"We sold five in October," said Court Treuth, vice president of the Henry Knott Development Group. "It was a really good month. It's been up and down this year. It may have been better for us because we're the only builder in Harford County in the $50,000 range." He said Harford has been and will be a strong market.

Treuth added, "But I don't see us venturing into a lot of new developments at this time. There's a large inventory of town houses in the market. It's little overbuilt, and it's taking awhile to absorb that."

Lefenfeld said the sales decline doesn't mean the Harford market is eroding. He said the market should continue to do well, especially in areaslike Edgewood and Joppa.

"There's an awful lot of housing projects available," he said. "Harford will continue to be strong. It has grown so much in the recent decade or so that it's now developing its own move-up market."

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