Home sales show drop in revised tally In Baltimore area, summer, early '97 not as good as 1st report

But October was up 9.5%

Realtors' group found discrepancy in locales served by MARIT

Real estate

November 18, 1997|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

A recalculation of sales figures by the Maryland Association of Realtors for existing homes in the Baltimore area has shown that the upward summer climb wasn't as steady as first believed and that the beginning of 1997 was far more sluggish than first reported.

Yet the most recent monthly statistics released by the MAR for October show that the Baltimore metropolitan area enjoyed a 9.5 percent increase over the same period last year.

That comes after a revised 16 percent increase in September, the highest of the year for the area. Previously, according to numbers from the MAR, June, July and August also showed steady sales gains for the area. But when recalculated, there was a 9 percent decrease in June, a 1 percent increase in July and no change from the previous year in August.

In fact, July -- when recalculated -- was the first month of the year to show a gain. Meanwhile, the winter months were much more harsh. For instance, the reported 6 percent decrease in February was in reality a 20 percent decline from February 1996. There were double-digit declines in March and May as well.

The adjustment was done after officials at MAR began to notice discrepancies between the number of monthly units settled for 1996 and 1997 for the areas served by the now defunct Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Information Technologies. MARIT, which was replaced by the Metropolitan Regional Information System in February, served the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors and gathered sales figures from Baltimore, as well as Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

However, it was soaring September sales in Carroll County thatgot the MAR's attention.

"Carroll County seemed to have the biggest discrepancy," said Pam Youngblood, spokeswoman for MAR. "We started delving into the whole issue of 1996 numbers provided by MARIT and realized that they did not use the same methodology as the 1997 numbers."

The September numbers originally supplied by MAR showed Carroll County with a 54 percent increase in sales over the same time last year. The revised figures showed that sales were essentially unchanged.

To fix the monthly comparisons, the state association had MRIS take the 1996 raw data and recalculate, using the same parameters that it uses to calculate 1997 sales figures.

Stanley Dill, president and a trustee of the MARIT system, said the discrepancies were caused by a number of factors.

"In the old MARIT system, we identified residential sales as single-family detached homes, but did not include farms or condominiums. It did include new home sales.

"Now what MRIS classifies as residential sales includes residential resales and new homes, single-family attached or detached and condos and farms. So it was the condos and farms that threw the numbers a little bit," Dill said.

Dill, manager of the Hampstead office in Carroll County for O'Conor, Piper and Flynn, said that when an agent outside the MARIT system sells a property in a participating jurisdiction, that sale would go unrecorded.

"Let's say a Montgomery County agent who came up to Carroll County listed [a house], sold it, that then would get recorded in the Montgomery County system and not in ours. That's what happened to a small extent, but that also contributed to the discrepancies," Dill said.

And Youngblood added that now "we're pretty confident that you can compare 1996 to 1997."

Carroll County did show the highest increase in sales of all the jurisdictions in the area, climbing 27 percent over October 1996. Howard County was next with a 25 percent increase and Baltimore and Harford County had 11 percent gains. Baltimore County was up 7 percent, while Anne Arundel was down 7 percent.

"New home construction is the magnet that brings folks into the county, but then as they shop around and look [they find] the resales," Dill said.

"The resale is a good value to draw people from the surrounding counties, particularly the counties like Howard County, where the same house may cost 10 to 15 percent more."

Pub Date: 11/18/97

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