Home sales riding high Metropolitan area posts 36% gain for existing dwellings

June is top month in 2 1/2 years

City gains 61 percent

swing noted toward a seller's market

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

For six months, the Baltimore residential real estate market has been racing at a feverish pace, and yesterday's release of sales figures for existing homes in June indicates that the market might be on the verge of going into overdrive.

Homes in some of the city's most desirable neighborhoods -- Roland Park, Homeland and Guilford -- are being snapped up almost as soon as they hit the market. And local real estate agents are beginning to hint that the area may be moving from a buyer's market to a seller's market.

Sales of existing homes in the Baltimore metropolitan area were among the strongest for any month in the past 2 1/2 years. The city and Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties reached 30-month highs for units sold. The figures do not include new-home sales.

June sales in the metropolitan area jumped a little more than 36 percent compared with sales in the same period last year, according to statistics released yesterday by the Metropolitan Regional Information System and the Anne Arundel County Multiple List. And sales in June were 15.8 percent higher than in May.

"Since I've been in the business 41 years, I have a long history of seeing the cycles of up and down markets," said Nancy Hubble of the Greenspring office of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn-ERA. "This market is the way it was in the late 1980s, but I even think it is better than it was in the late 1980s. We're doing a much higher volume of expensive sales.

"I don't think it is as frantic as it was a couple of months ago, but it is very steady and it is very good."

Patrick J. Kane, vice president of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc. in Towson, said 1998 has become the company's best for sales in five years.

The future also looks good, judging by the upswing in pending contracts -- those for homes that have been sold but not settled on.

Every jurisdiction except Harford County showed a double-digit increase in pending contracts, led by Howard County's 32.5 percent over June 1997. Homes sold faster in Howard County, staying on the market for an average of 155 days, two to three weeks less than in the other jurisdictions.

"The bottom fishers are out of business," Hubble said. "I think they [aggressive buyers] are having a hard time stealing properties today. The sellers are little more independent than what they were."

Patricia Savani, a partner at Anne Arundel-based Champion Realty Inc., said, "As an organization we are up about 20 percent [for the year], and the agents are as busy as they have ever been. It is an interesting market. We have switched more to a seller's market than what we have been, but people are still very selective."

Sales in Baltimore rose more than 61 percent compared with June 1997. Sales in the city totaled 721, up from 446 last June. That was the highest one-month figure in at least the past 30 months. Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties had similar gains.

In Baltimore County 981 units were settled compared with 720 in June 1997, a 36.25 percent increase; Howard showed a 45.45 percent gain with 448 units sold compared with 308 and Anne Arundel was up 24.7 percent with 520 sales against 417 for June 1997.

"In the $250,000-to-$300,000 range there is just about nothing for sale in Roland Park, Guilford, Homeland," said Melvin Knight, an agent with the OPF-ERA Roland Park office. "And when they come on the market they go almost instantly. I listed a house on Keswick Road that was slightly under $200,000, and you'd think I was giving it away."

Hubble, who with her daughter Karen Bisbee recorded $8 million in sales in June, said it hasn't been uncommon for some contracts for homes in those neighborhoods to come with a clause offering "$5,000 over the next highest bid."

Although Carroll and Harford did not hit 30-month highs for units sold, those counties' sales in June were up from the same period last year. Carroll County was up 21.6 percent and Harford gained 5.7 percent.

"I think we are closer to a seller's market this year than we have been in a long, long time," said Joan Ryder of Century 21 Joan Ryder in Harford County.

Ryder attributed the small increase in Harford in part to the saturation of new-home developments in the area.

"I find that the resales are being walked over by the new construction," she said. "Buyers are saying, 'Well, I'm looking at your resale, but if I can have new for the same price, that's what I'm going to do.' That seems to be a problem in the resale [market]."

Pub Date: 7/09/98

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