Baltimore-area home sales moved up 24% last month

January 09, 1993|By Ellen James Martin | Ellen James Martin,Staff Writer

Residential home sales in the Baltimore area increased 24 percent in December compared with a year earlier, while the full year showed an increase of 9 percent, the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors reported.

But economists who study the region said the statistics were not as favorable as they appeared, because 1991 -- the basis of comparison -- was a troubled year for home sales in the Baltimore area.

"We're moving up from a very low base in 1991. We need to remember that '91 was an absolutely dreadful year for the Baltimore region and the nation. It was one of the worst years in the post-World War II period," said Charles McMillion, president of MBG Information Services, a Washington-based firm that tracks economic trends.

The statistics reported yesterday by the Realtors board covered sales of new and used homes that closed in December and the full year. In December, sales of 1,607 housing units reached settlement in the Baltimore area, up 24 percent. Settled units for 1992 was 17,790, up 9 percent over 1991.

The figures include those for Baltimore and the surrounding coun

ties, except Anne Arundel, which has not yet reported results.

At the University of Baltimore, Michael Conte, a professor of economics and finance, noted that the rate of increases in home sales in Baltimore is outpacing Maryland because state sales have increased, on average, about 5 percent in each of the last two years.

Still, Mr. Conte added, "the bad news is that Baltimore fell more deeply [in terms of home sales] than Maryland did previously, and therefore we had a longer way to come back. Baltimore had lost jobs at a more rapid rate than the rest of the state."

The dollar volume of Baltimore-area home sales that settled in December was $204.3 million, up 27 percent compared with the same month in 1991. For 1992 as a whole, the settled dollar volume was up 11 percent, to $2.3 billion.

"We are very happy to have ended this year on such a positive note," said Andrew J. A. Chriss, president of the local Realtors board.

"December marked the seventh month in a row that settled units were up. The low interest rates continued to be a factor. November and December, traditionally a slow time for the real estate market, were both busy months," Mr. Chriss said.

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