Inventory squeeze hurts sales

Buyers overwhelm single-home supply

Real Estate

June 04, 1999|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

A dwindling inventory and a squeeze on getting more developed land in the pipeline is having an effect on home construction as net sales for the Baltimore metropolitan area in April grew by just 1.5 percent over a year ago.

The statistics, released yesterday by the Meyers Group, which tracks and analyzes sales of new homes, showed that single-family home sales in the area grew by 8.9 percent, while townhouses dropped 4.6 percent and condominium sales were off by 5.8 percent.

Overall, gross sales in the area were down 12.6 percent. Gross sales include those contracts that never get to settlement; net sales give a more definitive snapshot of the market.

"There were some nice gains in Harford County and some nice gains in Carroll County," said Anna Pitheon, regional sales director of the Meyers Group. "But Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties slipped, and in all three of those markets that's where there seems to be more of a scramble than in the other markets for new ground."

Carroll County, where townhouse and condominium construction is virtually nonexistent, had 23 more single-family home sales this April than April 1998, a 62 percent jump.

Harford County showed a 15.6 percent gain in single-family sales over last year, and a 5.8 percent gain overall.

"The two markets that are behind are Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County, and that is due to a shortage of new product availability," Pitheon added.

That aspect wasn't lost on Jim Joyce, president of the Baltimore Division of the Ryland Group, the region's second-largest builder.

"I only have product to sell in nine of my subdivisions [out of 18], and I have a half a dozen of them that have fewer than five lots left," Joyce said.

Joyce said Ryland's sales figures are up "slightly over last year, and I am doing it in fewer subdivisions.

"We may see some [numbers] down a month here, a month there, but I really don't believe that anybody can make a case that 1999 -- if you have lots available to you -- isn't a better market than '98.

Linda Veach, vice president of Bob Ward Homes in Harford County, said their "spec" homes -- finished, ready-for-sale properties -- in their communities "are pretty much gone."

She said April sales for the area's fourth-largest builder exceeded their estimates by seven units with 46 sales, 12 more than April 1998.

"Half of our sales in 1998 were townhouses, this year only 25 percent were townhouse sales," Veach said.

"We're selling more single-family homes. People can afford them, they are comfortable with their jobs and interest rates are great," she said.

Pub Date: 6/04/99

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