Home buying remains strong Sales of existing homes rose 27% in October in Baltimore area

16th straight monthly gain

Real estate

November 12, 1998|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

It may not be quite as frenzied as last spring, but homebuyers in the Baltimore metropolitan market are still pushing a healthy housing boom as sales of existing homes in October rose 27 percent over the same period last year.

According to statistics released yesterday by the Metropolitan Regional Information System, the increase marked the 16th consecutive month that sales rose when compared with the same period in the previous year.

And the continued strength of the market wasn't lost on Marc Witman, president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

"It means we are in a strong economy. People still believe that this is a vital and solid economy. People are still feeling good about their jobs. It seems like every month we say that interest rates are great -- and we don't know how long it is going to last, but it continues to last," said Witman, an associate broker with Long and Foster Real Estate Inc.

However, when comparing the number of homes sold in October and September, the increase was just 1 percent.

"You are in a strong market that is sustaining itself, but isn't building on itself," Witman said.

The jurisdiction that showed the greatest gain was Carroll County, with a 48 percent increase over October 1997. Howard County had the smallest rise, with a 17 percent gain. However, the average sales price in Howard County jumped 13.6 percent, from $192,061 to $218,171 for the month, the largest increase in the region.

Baltimore, enjoying a resurgence in home sales, had its smallest monthly gain since May -- 28.3 percent.

"I don't quite see that super, killer frenzy when a house comes on the market and there are multiple offers," Witman said when recalling the spring market. "The buying activity is a little more in balance with the inventory, and vice versa."

The number of pending contracts -- an indication of future sales -- shows that the final months of the year should yield impressive numbers. Pending contracts for October were up 16 percent over the same period last year.

Stanley Dill, manager of the Hampstead office of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA, said single-family homes in Carroll County in the $150,000 price range have been selling within 30 days of coming onto the market.

According to MRIS statistics, of the 170 homes that sold last month in Carroll County, 64 percent were in the $140,000 to $180,000 price range.

"For a while there, everyone was distracted by getting back into the swing of school, so September was a little bit slower," Dill said.

And Witman says there are only two things that can put a damper on the market.

"I think the only thing that would cause a big change in where the housing market is going is if something happened to interest rates or in the overall economy as reflected by the performance of the stock market," Witman said.

zTC Pub Date: 11/12/98

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