Area's new-home sales drop 3% in first quarter

May 14, 1994|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Sun Staff Writer

New-home sales in metropolitan Baltimore fell 3 percent during the first three months of 1994 compared with the same months last year, Legg Mason Realty Group Inc. said in its quarterly survey of new subdivisions.

In Baltimore and the surrounding counties, 3,073 new homes sold, a number analysts and builders viewed as healthy during a period of rising interest rates and bad weather that kept buyers away.

"Despite a slowdown in building permits, new-home sales continue at the pace seen during the late 1980s," said Bob Lefenfeld, senior vice president of the realty group. He noted that permits have decreased because fewer rental apartments are under construction.

Builders predicted an improved second quarter and said sales of new homes already have started picking up. It came as no surprise that first-quarter statistics reflect a drop in the level of sales, said Dwight Griffith, first vice president of the Home Builders Association of Maryland.

"It's most likely weather-related," he said. "Not a whole lot of people were going out looking at houses."

But although warmer temperatures have brought out more home shoppers, builders fear rising interest rates are shutting some prospective buyers out of the market.

"I would suspect we aren't getting the traffic we expected to get," said Clark Turner, president of the homebuilders group. "We're consistently making sales and seeing good qualified buyers coming out, but not as many of them."

The median price of new homes sold in the first quarter rose almost $6,000, to $165,470, compared with the median price during last year's first quarter.

The region's top selling area remained Odenton/Crofton in Anne Arundel County, where 500 homes sold. Nearly half sold in the county's three major developments, Piney Orchard, Russett and Seven Oaks.

Still, Legg Mason reported 16 percent fewer sales in Anne Arundel County. New-home sales rose in Baltimore and Carroll counties.

The number of single-family home sales dropped 12 percent throughout the region during the first three months of the year, to 1,413. Single-family homes accounted for 46 percent of the region's sales, compared with 51 percent during the first three months of 1994, the survey showed.

Townhouse sales rose by 2 percent, to 1,102, while sales of apartment units jumped 13 percent, to 558, from last year's first quarter.

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