Home sales in the Baltimore area climbed in February compared with the same month last year, as realty executives reported a pickup in activity at all price levels and in all parts of the region except Anne Arundel County.
"Obviously, there's greatly renewed confidence in the market by prospective buyers, who are coming out in droves," said James P. O'Conor, chairman of the board of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn, a Timonium-based realty chain.
For the Baltimore area, excluding Anne Arundel County, 921 sales went through settlement in February, 3 percent more than in February 1991, according to the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.
The improvement was even greater for pending sales, which were up 25 percent, to 1,834.
Pending sales include contracts that have been signed but have not closed.
Working with a different set of figures, however, the Anne Arundel County Multiple Listing Service reported a decline in settled sales for February 1992 vs. the same month last year.
Excluding condominiums, the number of settled sales for the county fell to 166 in February, down from 201 in February 1991.
Herb Chisholm, president-elect of the Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors, played down the significance of the settled-sales figures for the county, noting that it can be weeks between the signing of a contract and settlement.
"The market is more brisk than it was 30, 60 or 90 days ago," Mr. Chisholm said of Anne Arundel County.
"We are blazing," said Patricia Savani, sales manager for the Annapolis office of Champion Realty, a chain based in the county.
Mr. O'Conor attributed the recent pickup in home sales to "the fact that interest rates are low and buyers' confidence is coming back. I believe the worst of the recession is over and that's carried over into the homebuying market."
Mortgage rates have edged up from the 17-year low they reached in early January, which might have actually helped home sales in the past several weeks, since it made the idea of refinancing less attractive and the idea of trading homes more attractive, Mr. O'Conor speculated.
"We see the market as popping," said William M. Jesson Jr., president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.
"This market would be great even in a normal economy," he said.
Statistics provided by the board, which excludes Anne Arundel County, indicate that settled residential sales for February of this year reached $116 million, 9 percent more than in February of last year.