Howard County home values could go up soon, analysts say Strong growth in jobs cited as primary reason

June 13, 1996|By A SUN STAFF WRITER

After years of stagnation, home values in Howard County soon may creep up again, thanks to strong job growth, particularly among high-paying jobs, economic analysts say.

Though county officials remain cautious, the latest edition of the county's quarterly Economic Indicators report is upbeat about the local economy.

Some independent economists go further, predicting that more good news is coming, even for long-suffering homeowners, who have seen the assessed values of homes stall for several years.

"It's one of the few counties where we see abundant job growth and high-paid jobs growing," said Michael Conte, director of the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson State University. Howard is probably going to be leading the way in terms of a resurgence in home-value growth."

The June Economic Indicators report -- a mix of hunches and economic statistics covering different periods compiled by county staff and members of the private Economic Forum -- states that:

Small-business leasing is up 400 percent "over the past year."

Residential real estate has been strong since March, particularly among townhouses with garages.

Sales tax revenues in March were up 3.7 percent from the same month a year ago.

In the same period, unemployment dropped from 3.2 percent to 2.7 percent -- considered at or near full employment.

Total wages grew by nearly 5 percent from September 1994 to September 1995. The average weekly wage was $574 in September 1995.

Economic forecasters find the employment and wage statistics particularly significant. As job growth goes, so goes the economy, they say.

Because only a third of the county work force lives and works in the county, officials track the number of jobs in the county and the number of county residents who have jobs anywhere.

Both numbers are higher: 10,753 more county residents held jobs in March than a year earlier. And in September 1995, the last month for which reliable data are available, the county had 4,048 more jobs than a year earlier.

The jobs created in Howard County also are relatively high-paying, according to calculations made by Conte and his institute. Conte said six of the 10 fastest-growing job categories, such as computer and data processing, pay $500 or more a week. Three categories pay more than $800.

He predicted that could lead home values to begin growing by 5 percent annually next year. That could mean an increase in property tax revenues.

The average selling price for a single-family home in January was $197,766 -- 1.6 percent less than in January 1995, according to the Economic Indicators report.

Pub Date: 6/13/96

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