Real estate industry studied

Report shows impact on the county economy

March 29, 2006|By A SUN STAFF WRITER

There were literally hundreds of facts tossed about, but perhaps the most essential was emblazoned on a campaign-sized blue-and-white badge pinned to Oliver Henderson's lapel: "I'm a Realtor and I Vote."

While Henderson says, "I think that elected officials recognize that real estate is important," the general election is eight months away and growth is certain to be a central issue, so his badge and statistics were unsubtle reminders to candidates not to make his industry their whipping boy.

Henderson, president-elect of the Howard County Association of Realtors, released a report Monday whose primary purposes were to examine market conditions this year and to document the economic importance of the industry.

That impact on the county is substantial, the report shows. Last year, the industry:

Paid wages in excess of $155.5 million.

Generated $83.2 million in local, federal and state taxes.

Constructed almost 1,600 single-family and multifamily housing units, creating hundreds of jobs.

Spurred millions of dollars more in related spending on things such as home repair, furnishings and appliances.

Key industry

"Clearly, real estate is the key to the fiscal health and economic soundness of Howard County," Henderson said in releasing the findings of a report prepared by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc., which operates the nation's largest multiple-listing service and collects and analyzes data affecting the industry.

It is the first time the county's Association of Realtors has issued such a report. When the findings "came back to us," he said, "we found that the numbers were substantial. And it was substantial enough that we wanted to get the information out to the general public."

Henderson also provided a glimpse of market conditions this year, and there was good news for buyers, if not sellers.

While the market remains strong in the county, the double-digit appreciation homeowners have enjoyed recently is ending. Also, housing units are not selling as briskly.

"It's going to be an education process for both sellers and buyers," he said. "We're going to see more seller concessions as they adjust to a changing market."

Jonathan Hill, who prepared the report and is vice president of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, said the number of units sold in February, for instance, declined by 13 percent. But both the asking and selling price for homes continue to increase. He said the average listing price advanced 9.3 percent last month, and the average selling price rose 7.4 percent.

Housing bubble

"Newspaper pundits have been harkening a bubble in the housing market for years," his report says. "For the first time the markets are actually starting to show signs of slowing. ... But the data indicates that it is just that: the market is cooling."

Hill said, "There is no bubble bursting in the real estate market in Howard County. There is a decrease in the double-digit appreciation that we've seen in the last couple of years. Now we're predicting single-digit."

Henderson said, "Quality homes will always sell," but, "for some of the homes that are not in such pristine condition, those are going to stay on the market a little longer."

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