Home sales improve over 1991 figures But prices are lower, Realtors say ANNE ARUNDEL BUSINESS

December 24, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

More homes sold through November this year than last year in Anne Arundel County, indicating a strengthening local housing market for next year, local Realtors said.

"It's been a much-improved year," said Herb Chisholm, president of the Anne Arundel Association of Realtors, who said the number of settled sales increased 8.1 percent over 1991.

While more homes are being sold, they're being sold for less -- reflecting the buyers' market that has dominated the past year. In November, total settled sales in Anne Arundel tallied $46.7 million, up from $42.2 million last November. Homes settled this November averaged $155,916 in price, compared with an average price of $173,098 last November.

Realtors cited low interest rates, first-time homebuyer programs and renewed faith in the economy as reasons the market may be on the rebound. While the real estate sector often suffers first during a recession, it also often emerges first, they said.

"Last year was a lot worse," said Joe Minieri, manager of the Jennifer Road branch of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn, the largest realty chain in the Baltimore area. "There was no hope. People were saying, 'God, this is awful.' "

This year, the difference is apparent, even during the typically slow month of December, he said.

"More contracts are being written and more business is being done," he said. "People perceive that things are changing. With new interest rates and a change in the administration, people feel OK and are back out there looking."

The county's Multiple List Service showed fewer settlements during the first half of the year compared with 1991.

But Realtors began to see a turnaround in June, when the number of settlements increased 12 percent. Settlements usually reflect sales made two months earlier.

July settlements increased 10 percent, September's by 14 percent and October's by 30 percent compared with those months last year. In November, sales shot up 41 percent, to 300.

November sales of new and resale homes in Baltimore and the five surrounding counties increased by 16 percent. December figures will not be available until mid-January.

For Manis & Wright, a small, growing realty in Annapolis, the year was a good one too, as the business added Realtors and more than doubled volume.

"Overall, 1992 was a lot better for us," President David Wright said. He said the under-$200,000 price range has proved strong all year, especially as first-time homebuyers pushed up sales of homes in the $80,000 to $125,000 range.

Sales have slowed during the last three months of the year, as they typically do, but Mr. Wright said he envisions 1993 as a turnaround year.

"With the new administration and a decrease in the unemployment rate, and as more people are back working and less concerned about their jobs," more will commit to buying a home, he said.

Though sales increased overall, sales of homes priced over $175,000 decreased, county multiple list figures show. And some neighborhoods fared better than others.

Sales through September fell 28 percent in Chartridge in Severna Park, where homes range from $150,000 to $225,000.

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