Home sales up 12% in June

Sharp increase recorded despite rising mortgage rates

`Unprecedented'

July 10, 1999|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

The frenzied housing market in the Baltimore metropolitan area hit a two-year milestone yesterday, and with another surge in sales last month, it seems that not even creeping mortgage rates can put a damper on it.

Sales of existing homes in the Baltimore area were 12 percent higher in June than in the same month last year, when the market was halfway through churning out one of the best years since the heydays of the mid-1980s.

One sign of how robust the market has been is that sales for the month were 51 percent higher than in June 1997 and 38 percent higher than in June 1996.

Mortgage rates have been inching upward in recent weeks, moving to about 7.75 percent, but that hasn't detered buyers.

"We were showing houses all day yesterday, all holiday weekend," said David Desser, an associate broker with Prudential Carruthers Realtors in Pikesville. "When it is hot and it is 100 degrees outside and people are looking at houses we have motivated buyers."

"June was a killer month for me; it was the best month since I've been in the business," said Donnell Spivey of Re/Max Columbia in Ellicott City, who has been an agent for 14 years. "This is the best market I've seen since 1986."

As sales rose, so did the average selling price of a home in the area. The average for a single-family detached home was $206,480, a 4.68 percent increase. The average townhouse sold for $108,070, 6.72 percent more than in June last year.

"Is this something else or what? It continues to go up, [and] just when we thought we were out of houses to sell," said Marc Witman, president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors and an associate broker with Long & Foster Real Estate Inc.

Pending contracts in June, an indication of future sales, were 28 percent higher than in the same month last year.

"The pendings are what is happening out on the street today," Witman said. "We are going to be looking at double-digit increases for closings in July and August."

At O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA, President and Chief Executive Officer James P. O'Conor said the company had the best month in its history, with sales 24 percent higher than in June last year.

"Unprecedented that's the most appropriate word to use and it's been sustained and prolonged. It's not just a short-term thing that has happened here and it goes away," O'Conor said.

O'Conor noted that his company is in its 26th consecutive month of recording higher sales compared with the corresponding month of the previous year.

Pub Date: 7/10/99

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