Last year at this time, Patrick Welsh, then president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, said that an "economic downturn" would be the only way the hot Baltimore real estate market could cool off and obtain more "balance" between buyers and sellers.
Well, the economy cooled off, but the housing market sure didn't. And today Welsh can look back in wonderment. "My economic background has me scratching my head," he said. "I don't understand it."
One explanation is that Maryland's diverse economy wasn't hit as hard as other parts of the country.
Despite rising unemployment, signs of a recession nationally, a jittery stock market and terrorist attacks that temporarily paralyzed America in September, the resale housing market in metropolitan Baltimore last year was the best in recent history.
Real estate brokers sold 35,602 existing homes in the metropolitan region last year, a 13.2 percent increase over 2000, when 31,442 homes were settled, according to official statistics released by the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc., the multiple listing database used by the industry.
Since the metropolitan housing boom took off midway through 1997, buyers have been pushing up sales as well as prices throughout the region. The number of homes sold last year was 71.1 percent higher than in 1997, when 20,812 residences changed hands.
The sales totals for last year represented a 23.6 percent gain over 1998, when 28,799 homes were sold, and a 15.3 percent increase over 1999, when 30,886 properties were sold.
Every jurisdiction had double-digit increases in sales except Howard County - up 6.6 percent.
Carroll and Harford counties, the two most rural areas in the region, led the way with rises of 17.4 percent and 16.2 percent over 2000 levels. Baltimore County was next at 14.2 percent; Anne Arundel County gained 13.7 percent; and Baltimore City rose 13.3 percent.
For the most part, the region outperformed its neighboring jurisdictions - Montgomery County rose 4.8 percent; Northern Virginia was up 6.4 percent; Cecil County gained 1.3 percent; the District of Columbia declined 0.1 percent. Prince George's County showed a 17.3 percent increase over 2000.
The total dollar amount of properties sold last year was $5.85 billion in the Baltimore metro area, a 17.2 percent increase and $1.15 billion more than in 2000, according to the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.
The average home sales price was $164,312 vs. $158,795 in 2000, a rise of 3.5 percent, and the median sales price was $133,725 vs. $128,000, a 4.5 percent gain.
A single-family detached home rose 5 percent to $231,082 from $220,072, and a townhouse increased from $108,085 to $116,610, a 7.9 percent rise. The average sales price for condominiums rose last year to $88,246 vs. $86,460, a 2.1 percent gain.
But the county that continued to see the most in home price inflation was Howard, where a single-family detached home rose to $321,286 from $285,218, a 12.7 percent increase. In 1999, the average sales price in the county was $264,042, and in 1998 it was $245,528.
Average prices for townhouses similarly rose, growing by 12.9 percent to $158,247 from $140,140 in 2000. The average townhouse price in 1999 was $134,557 and $130,527 in 1998.
Although the overall time it took to sell a home grew to 79 days - seven more than 2000 - almost half of the 35,602 homes sold in metropolitan Baltimore did so within the first 30 days of being put on the market.
About the statistics
The 2001 detailed housing tables for Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard, Harford and Baltimore counties were provided by the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.
The statistics include all homes that were purchased through the multiple-listing system.