New-home sales rose 1.4% in '92 Steady gains cited in regional study

February 14, 1993|By Audrey Haar | Audrey Haar,Staff Writer

New-home sales are continuing a slow but steady climb, says a regional year-end report by the Legg Mason Realty Group.

Sales in 1992 rose 1.4 percent to 9,617 homes in the Baltimore metropolitan area, compared with an increase of 15.2 percent in 1991 that followed a plunge of 16.3 percent in 1990.

Robert Lefenfeld, vice president of the Legg Mason Realty Group, says low mortgage rates and increased confidence in the economy pushed town house and condo owners into single-family homes.

"In the last two years we were in a down market and people were not making discretionary purchases," Mr. Lefenfeld said. In 1990 and 1991, there was a higher proportion of town house sales, and the move-up buyers were waiting, he said.

"This year we saw lower interest rates and an acceptance that there will be a tomorrow," Mr. Lefenfeld said, and buyers took advantage of a chance to move up.

Last year's increase was due to a 9 percent jump in sales of new single-family detached homes; at the same time, sales of town houses fell 2.1 percent and sales of condominiums fell 9.2 percent.

Mr. Lefenfeld pointed out that while move-up buyers used to look for homes in the $250,000-and-up range, the Baltimore-area home market is now strongest for smaller detached homes on smaller lots in the $150,000-to-$180,000 range.

Median home prices for the region fell more than $6,000 to $159,575 in the fourth quarter of 1992, the second year in a row that year-end prices were lower than the previous year.

Prices had risen from $141,022 at the end of 1988 to $166,950 at the end of 1990.

Mr. Lefenfeld says prices fell because some builders are shrinking the size of homes and stripping houses of features that once were standard and making them options instead.

The annual homes sales report by Legg Mason surveys new home subdivisions with 20 or more units in the Baltimore region that, in addition to the city and Baltimore County, includes Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

Anne Arundel leads

Anne Arundel County led the region with nearly one-third of the region's total new-home sales last year. The top area for home sales continues to be Odenton-Crofton, where sales were up 20 percent. The second leading market in numbers of homes sold was northwest Baltimore County, even though sales were down 10 percent.

Baltimore County was second in the region, accounting for more than one-quarter of the region's sales. But Baltimore County's 2,600 sales in 1992 was 9 percent less than in 1991.

Sales rose 5.3 percent to 1,591 in Howard County, and 1.0 percent to 1,587 in Harford County.

Sales in Carroll County were strong -- up 25.8 percent to 604, the most since Legg Mason started the survey in 1985.

Mr. Lefenfeld said he anticipates modest growth over the next couple of years in the Sykesville-Eldersburg and Westminster areas of Carroll County, but the region, he said, will retain its agricultural focus.

In Baltimore, new-home sales fell by about half because of a drop in new-home inventory. The city usually has fewer sites available for development, compared with the other areas of the survey.

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