Home sales continue to rise at healthy pace April figures were 22% higher than in same period a year ago

Real estate

May 09, 1998|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

The robust Baltimore residential real estate market slowed its pace in April but nevertheless continued to show healthy gains over 1997.

Sales of existing homes in the Baltimore metropolitan region were 22.4 percent above the same period last year, making April the eighth straight month of higher sales, according to statistics released yesterday by the Metropolitan Regional Information System and the Anne Arundel Multiple List.

The gain wasn't as impressive as March's 39 percent increase over March 1997 or the 30 percent rise in February. But in terms of units sold, April outpaced March by 8 percentage points.

Every jurisdiction showed an increase, with Howard County leading the way with a gain of 33.6 percent over April 1997. Harford County posted a 28.4 percent increase; Baltimore 23.3 percent; Carroll County 22.6 percent; Baltimore County 19 percent; and Anne Arundel 17.5 percent.

For the city it was the lowest one-year gain so far this year. January, February and March showed gains in the 50 percent to 60 percent range. Nevertheless, the slowdown wasn't apparent to Patrick Welsh, manager of the O'Conor, Piper & Flynn-ERA Dundalk office, which serves parts of the city as well as eastern Baltimore County.

"I would say it's busier here today than it has been in about 10 years very, very busy," Welsh said. "This reminds me of when interest rates first started to fall at about 1985 when we got down into the single-digit range. It was just pandemonium. And it has just been crazy around here for the last few months."

Welsh said continuing strong consumer confidence and relatively stable interest rates have helped the surge in sales that began last December, when interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped to just under 7 percent. According to HSH Associates, a New Jersey firm that tracks and analyzes mortgages, the 30-year fixed rate in the Baltimore area yesterday was 7.04 percent.

"We had a real strong January, February and March. It slowed down a little in April, but I think it's going to hum along the rest of the year," said David Desser, an associate broker in the Pikesville office of Long & Foster Realtors Inc.

Desser said high-end homes have been quick sellers and that segment of the housing inventory is dwindling. "I'd say our biggest issue right now is inventory. Which means we may be turning to a seller's market."

The strength of the market was also evident in the number of pending contracts, an indication of future sales activity. Every jurisdiction showed an increase when compared with April 1997, with Howard County rising the most at 51 percent.

Pub Date: 5/09/98

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