Carroll's Next Bumper Crop CARROLL COUNTY

February 25, 1993

Residential development and population growth are about to accelerate in Carroll County if the number of recorded subdivision lots is any indication. Even though 1992 was one of the worst years for the real estate industry, development in Carroll showed no evidence of slowing.

The county recorded 792 subdivision lots, the second highest number since the boom year of 1988, when merely six more lots were recorded. Part of the increase may have been due to homebuilders scurrying for approvals before the county's forest conservation act took effect. Nevertheless, since homebuilders generally record lots only after they have sold a home and are ready to begin construction, the numbers indicate that the new-home market in Carroll has remained robust even while much of the nation's homebuilders suffered.

It looks as though Carroll could have an explosive new-home market later this year and next. A large number of developments have received preliminary approvals but have not been recorded, creating a backlog of houses that could be built. Several thousand houses could go up if the local homebuilders decide the market is ready.

Two key ingredients for booming real estate sales are strong consumer confidence and low interest rates. Consumer confidence, while still fragile, is stronger than it has been. As consumers' psychology improves, their spending will move beyond cars and household goods to new homes.

The second, and, possibly more important, element is low interest rates. Long-term interest rates, which affect home mortgage rates, are at their lowest levels since 1977. If rates remain low, the number of people who can afford a mortgage increases, fostering greater demand for new homes.

Also, the number of people moving out of the more established, and expensive, suburbs of Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties in search of the placid life of Carroll shows no sign of abating.

Rather than allow unfettered development, the county is wisely restricting the number of lots in a subdivision that can be recorded. The current limit is 25 -- a figure that allows for a gradual increase in population and prevents public services from being overwhelmed. Given the long list of approvals already granted, substantial growth is going to occur in this county -- even with the limitation.

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