Better weather boosts March home sales 12%

April 08, 1994|By Ellen James Martin | Ellen James Martin,Greater Baltimore Board of RealtorsSun Staff Writer

Settled home sales in the Baltimore area rose 12 percent in March compared with the same month last year, and pending sales were up 14 percent, the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors reported yesterday.

Local real estate specialists say that the market strengthened last month after the difficult weather conditions in February.

"Everything came to a head in March," said David Desser, an agent for Long & Foster in Pikesville.

Realty executives say that February's gentle rise in mortgage rates prodded buyers into becoming serious about purchasing property, but that rates haven't risen so much that they've shut people out of the market.

"The spring home sales market continues to make positive strides, with the recent rise in interest rates not having an appreciable impact on current conditions," said Nancy C. Hubble, president of the Baltimore-area realty board.

But if mortgage rates continue to rise, economists fear that much of the market's current momentum could be lost by early summer.

If rates top 9 percent, "that will definitely have some dampening effect on homebuyers," said Chang Min Kong, an associate professor of economics at Towson State University.

Many first-time buyers in their 20s and 30s, who are on the margin of affordability, would be especially hurt by further rises in mortgage markets, he said.

In March, 1,412 houses were sold. The pending sales figure for the month was 1,260.

The value of all homes sold in March increased 13 percent, to $182.8 million, compared with the same month last year. The average price of a home sold in March rose 1 percent, to $129,429.

Year-to-date figures on home sales also were up. The number of units with completed sales for the first quarter increased 10 percent, to 3,747. Pending sales increased 3 percent, to 4,210.

The figures are for sales of new and existing homes as reported to the Central Maryland Multiple Listing Service.

The data include sales in Baltimore City and Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Carroll counties.

WIDESPREAD GAINS

Percentage change in settled home sales in Baltimore City and four suburban counties for March

Baltimore.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. +6% Baltimore County .. .. .. .. .. .. +20% Carroll County .. .. .. .. .. .. ..+15% Harford County .. .. .. .. .. .. .. +2% Howard County .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .+5% Overall .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .+12%

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