The median sale price of a single-family home in the Baltimore metro area fell 9 percent to $245,800 in the first three months of the year as more foreclosures and short sales pushed values down in most U.S. metro areas, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.
The Baltimore area's median price, which had been $270,500 in the first quarter of 2008, declined less sharply than the national median, which plummeted 13.8 percent to $169,000, NAR said in its quarterly report.
Nationally, median prices declined on a year-over-year basis in most metro areas. because of price reductions on foreclosed homes and short sales and as more first-time homebuyers entered the market buying more moderately priced homes.
Among the survey's bright spots was a 21.1 percent median price gain - the largest increase in the nation - in a metro area that includes Cumberland and Allegany County in Western Maryland and Mineral County, W.Va. In that area, the median price, the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less, rose to $114,900.
Homes in foreclosure or short sales - when lenders agree to accept less than the amount owed - are typically selling for 20 percent less than market rate homes. Those homes accounted for nearly half the transactions in the U.S. in the first quarter, downwardly skewing median prices, NAR said.
Distressed sales are pushing prices down as well in the Baltimore area, which in NAR's survey includes Baltimore and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard, Harford and Queen Anne's counties, said David W. McIlvaine, president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.
"Certainly the selling of the foreclosure properties is negatively affecting values," McIlvaine said, and with state unemployment rising, "I'm concerned we are going to see an increase in the number of foreclosures during the summer."
But some hopeful signs include recent increases in pending sales - or homes that have gone under contract - and a reduction in average days on the market in some areas, which should help stabilize prices, he said.
Nationally, 4.59 million single-family homes and condos sold in the first three months of the year, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, nearly 7 percent below sales in 2008's first quarter. In Maryland, 58,000 single homes and condos sold from January through March, 12 percent fewer than in the year-earlier period.