Multiple offers back in the Baltimore-area housing market -- for some homes

May 21, 2012|Jamie Smith Hopkins

Here's a phrase you probably didn't expect to hear associated with the housing market so soon after the crash: Bidding war.

They've been roaring back into suddenly-hotter-again areas in recent months. Now they're a lot more common here, too -- in a milder way than during the bubble years, but surprising nonetheless.

Online real estate brokerage Redfin says nearly half of its Baltimore-area buyers' offers in the first three months of the year had competition. Some buyers are using escalation clauses again to try to avoid being outbid.

Sunday's story about the phenomenon gets into the why, the reason buyers are making beelines for some homes while plenty of others get no respect and the many differences between this weird market and the boom. (Shadow inventory, anyone?)

Redfin, which is offering a "Competitive Offer" webinar on May 24 and again in June, had a blog post last month about how to win in a multiple-offer situation -- and how to figure out if losing would be better. One tip Redfin offers to sway sellers beyond the financials: "Include a cover letter about your personal history, with a family photo." Very 2005.

All this might make you think of boosting your asking price if you're a seller (or your expectations if you're a soon-to-be), but keep in mind that it isn't, in fact, 2005. Homes listed for sale in the Baltimore metro area might be down 25 percent over the year, but sales are way below housing-bubble levels.

Agents and buyers say the inventory shortage is less about the total number of homes for sale than good homes for sale, defined as updated and priced well.

I asked Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, the Rockville multiple-listing service, for a snapshot of homes currently for sale and how long they've been on the market. Here's what the company's dataset showed for the Baltimore region as of last week:

About 3,200 homes were newly for sale -- on the market less than 30 days, the category that gets the most attention from buyers.

Even more, about 3,300, had been on the market for at least six months.

Of those, 1,140 had been on the market for more than a year.

And of those, about 240 had been on the market for more than two years.

The "winner" of the longest-on-market contest: an Arnold home, listed at $295,000, that hit the market in June 2006 -- more than 2,160 days ago. Oof.

This most-days stat is calculated from a list of homes that have stayed on the market continuously, but some owners go on and off and on again. The counter restarts to zero if you've been off for 90 days and then return, giving some sellers a second (or third or fourth) bite at the "NEW!" apple.

Buyers, sellers: How's the market treating you?

Got a housing news tip or experience to share? (Or just want to tell me something?) Email me at

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