May home sales in the Baltimore area
So the good news -- for those of you muttering "come on, market stabilization, come on already" -- is that home sales in the Baltimore metro area didn't fall nearly as much in May as the drops we've become accustomed to seeing.
Sales were down 8.5 percent from a year earlier, one of the smallest decreases since sales started slumping in the fall of 2005, according to real estate listing service Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.
A sign that a bottom in buying is near? Or just a temporary bump from government efforts to inject life into the housing market, including the $8,000 new-buyer tax credit? I'll let you good folks argue it out (though I probably won't be able to put up any of your comments until tonight).
In the meantime, here are some of the things that struck me about local home sales in May:
--The average sales price in the metro area, $280,000, has dropped to what the average buyer paid four years earlier. (For those of you saying, "Yeah, great, but what was it in May 2000": about $157,000.)
--The drop in average price from a year earlier -- 11.4 percent -- is the second-largest on record. The largest? April's 13.5 percent. (Keep in mind that the record, where MRIS figures are concerned, only goes back to the late 1990s.)
--Though the sales slump moderated, the number of deals that closed last month was still unusually low. Buyers picked up 1,930 homes, down from 2,100 and the smallest number on record. From 1999 to 2007, May was consistently a 3,000-plus month for sales.
--Home sales didn't drop everywhere. They rose a tiny bit (three extra homes!) in Anne Arundel County and stayed stable in Carroll County vs. a year earlier. But home sales fell about 4.5 percent in Baltimore County, about 14 percent in both Harford and Howard counties and more than 17 percent in Baltimore City.
Lorraine Mirabella has more in this housing-market story. (One economist calls a near-bottom to the sales slump but expects that prices will continue to slide into next year.)