Housing figures mixed Sales in area down in Jan., pending deals up

February 12, 1997|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF WRITER

As 1997 begins, a mixed signal was sent by the latest residential statistics released yesterday by the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

Although there was an overall 6 percent decrease in residential sales for the month of January, the board reported that pending contracts were up 33 percent.

"The market is still experiencing an upward trend that we are hopeful will continue throughout the new year," said Gayle Briscoe, president of the GBBR. The decline came after December saw a 15 percent rise in sales.

Overall, the number of pending sales contracts rose to 1,304 in hTC January compared with 983 in the same month last year.

That figure, however, may be "inflated," according to Michael Funk, research economist for the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson State University.

Although Funk was encouraged by the number of pending sales, he also pointed to the fact that last year the area was buried under snow from the early January blizzard.

Marc Witman, an agent with the Greenspring office of Long & Foster and vice president of the GBBR, agreed that last January his activity was frozen and it basically was a "two-week month," but this January he was extremely busy.

"The settled activity is ancient history as far as I'm concerned," Witman said. "I put more faith in the pending sales; that's going to tell you how the market is doing.

"There's a real positive energy flow out there and I think you're seeing it in all areas of the market."

All of the areas, except perhaps Carroll County.

Baltimore had the largest increase in pending sales, up 61 percent, followed by Howard County with 37 percent and Baltimore County at 31 percent. Carroll County, however, had a 14 percent drop.

Carroll also had the biggest percentage drop in settled units, down 29 percent from January 1996. Only Baltimore County had an increase in settled units, showing a modest 3 percent increase.

Carroll also was down almost $2.5 million in settled dollar volume from the same time last year. But in the county where new construction is booming, the average price of a home increased from $145,789 to $171,775. That 18 percent rise was highest in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Overall the average price for a home was up 5 percent to $135,158.

"Fortunately the new listing units remain fully stocked and we anticipate a rise in settled activity in the coming months," Briscoe added and Funk agreed. "The February numbers will be a lot more telling," he said.

Pub Date: 2/12/97

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