For more than a year, Dana and Judy Camak have daydreamed about owning a more luxurious home in Owings Mills. Only recently, however, did the Woodlawn couple's search for the perfect property turn serious.
"We're in a position where we can finally buy up," Mr. Camak said.
Trade-up buyers are re-emerging in the Baltimore-area real estate market, where they have been under-represented for more than a year, local realty executives said.
Moderate interest rates, homebuilder incentives and other factors are luring trade-up buyers -- people motivated by the desire to move rather than the need -- back into the market. The biggest draw: a growing belief that their homes can be sold to first-time buyers who have entered the market in large numbers since late December.
"The trade-up buyers realize there are enough people looking at their houses that they're ready for the next level up," said Arthur Davis 3rd, president of Chase Fitzgerald, a Roland Park real estate company.
In a normal market, trade-up buyers represent 30 percent of house shoppers, Mr. Davis estimates. That figure, which fell to a low of about 10 percent during last year's weak real estate market, has rebounded to 20 percent, he said.
The Camaks, a couple in their 30s whose first home is an attractive brick ranch-style house on a corner lot in Woodlawn, are like many other trade-up buyers. They want more amenities in their second home.
Mr. Camak, a Baltimore County fire inspector, ticks off the things they are seeking: a two-car garage, master bedroom with a superbath, including a Jacuzzi, and a "better school district" for their two children.
He and his wife, an X-ray technician, have the income to support payments on a house selling for $180,000 to $190,000, and they've already pinpointed a new Owings Mills subdivision where they'd like to buy.
They'll either wait until they've sold their rancher or will put a contract on a house with a "kick-out" clause that makes the deal contingent on the sale of their current home.
Many trade-up buyers look for newly built houses that are loaded with amenities, said Gayle Wilson of Otis Warren Real Estate Services in Woodlawn, the Camaks' realty agent.
"They're looking for what I call the 'ooh-ah house' rather than a 'ho-hum' house," she said. While most first-time buyers will settle for a basic three-bedroom house, second- and third-time buyers often seek more luxury features.
"They're looking for a first-floor family room rather than just a basement club room, a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, a fireplace, a patio and a garage -- maybe even a two-car garage," she said.
Ms. Wilson said trade-up buyers are returning to the market because "their confidence has been boosted. That's because interest rates are low and they know there's a large core of buyers out there to look at their current home."
Increased consumer confidence has brought trade-up buyers into the market, on the heels of first-time buyers, said Harry M. Blum 3rd, president of the Pikesville-based Fiola Blum Inc. realty firm.
"People are looking at the world as a little bit better place than it was a year ago."