Home sales in region still strong Carroll and Harford show biggest jump

Real estate

September 19, 1997|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

Spurred by strong activity in Carroll and Harford counties, sales of existing homes in the metropolitan region continued their strong summer by showing their third straight month of increased sales.

According to figures released by the Maryland Association of Realtors, Baltimore and the five surrounding counties had a 9 percent rise in sales in August over the same time period last year. That compares with a 7 percent gain in July and a 6 percent increase in June.

It marks the fourth month in the last five that existing home sales have been higher than in the corresponding period of 1996.

"They are modest increases, which is an awful lot easier to sustain," said Patrick J. Kane, vice president for Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc. "I would much rather see it like this, just a nice consistent growth, because the spikes tend to get you a little too optimistic, and the valleys are much deeper than the spikes are high."

Carroll and Harford counties showed the most activity. Sales in both were up 18 percent. Baltimore County was next with a 9 percent rise, followed by Howard County at 7 percent, Baltimore City at 6 percent and a 2 percent increase in Anne Arundel County.

"There really isn't the cyclical market that we are used to," Kane ++ said. "You knew what would happen in the spring, and you knew things would fall off in August and would pick up in September and October.

"But we are seeing a strong market. August was very good, and we were significantly ahead of last year in August, both in listings and pending sales. And, so far, it is holding up in September as well."

Home values also seem to be holding up. The average sales price for the region increased 6 percent over the same time last year, to $153,813. Carroll County, with an average sales price of $166,242, had the biggest increase, moving 10 percent higher than last August.

Pending sales, an indicator of future activity in the market, had an overall decrease of 5 percent. Yet Carroll County had the highest jump, with the number of open contracts rising 23 percent over the same time last year. Harford County was next with a 9 percent increase.

Alice Burch, vice president and Baltimore regional manager for Long & Foster, said her company also showed gains last month. She reported that her region, which consists of 28 offices, had a 19 percent gain in both dollar volume and sales -- $149 million on 1,094 units -- compared with last August.

"The general chatter is that business is about the same or just a little bit better than last year. It depends on which office and area," Burch said, adding that the Pikesville office had one of its best Augusts with 110 units sold. "I think there is a good confidence about buying homes and being able to finance them realistically," she said.

Pub Date: 9/19/97

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