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August 10, 2009

July home sales in the Baltimore area: up

More homes sold last month in the Baltimore metro area than a year earlier, according to numbers just released by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems. It's the second month in a row of increasing sales -- and the first time that's happened since the go-go days of 2005.

This ain't '05, of course. Average prices fell 6.8 percent in July, to just under $298,000. Four years ago, prices were rising at a 20 percent clip.

Prices fell across the Baltimore area in July, from 5.5 percent in Carroll County to almost 11 percent in Harford County.

But what about sales, you say? Buyers closed on 2,240 homes in the city and surrounding counties last month, up nearly 10 percent from a year earlier. That follows a 2 percent increase in June vs. the year before.

The increase wasn't quite universal. Home sales rose in the suburbs, particularly in Howard County (up 27 percent). But 8 percent fewer homes changed hands in the city last month, according to MRIS.

Do you think the federal government's first-time homebuyer tax credit is fueling sales? What will happen when the credit expires Nov. 30 -- assuming it's not extended?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 10:03 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Housing stats


I think that home sales will continue to increase as long as prices continue to decrease. The expiration of the $8,000 tax on our grandkids future should only push this along faster.

I am pleasantly surprised, and had wondered if sales weren't up. Two condos in our building suddenly sold in the past two weeks. Condo A had been on the market with a realtor since December '08, and experienced unusually robust open-house attendance in late June. Condo A's owners sold in early July, with the new buyer moving in last week. Condo B had been on the market since March '08 (initially for-sale-by-owner), and sold immediately once a realtor was finally hired two weeks ago. A townhouse on the next block also is also experiencing a sudden increase in open-house traffic, so maybe the housing market finally hit its sweet spot.

I actually think low interest rates is the bigger reason for the bump in housing. Although the $8k credit is great incentive to get people out and looking, it is the monthly payments that matter to a lot of folks. And from a monthly payment perspective, housing feels affordable.

Good news! I agree that low interest rates will help with affordability; this in turn will help spur home buying. The low rates and recent declining home prices makes owning just as affordable as renting in some instances.

This is great news, but to be honest with you, I would be very disappointed if these numbers were not up. I don’t want to put down the progress of trying to find the bottom of this market and how this data is a step in the right direction, but it the result of some great buying conditions. You have foreclosures being sold incredibly cheap, short sales, people loosing their jobs and selling just to get some money out of the house before they foreclose, very low interest rates, first time home buyers tax credit, and speculators getting back in the game buying up cheap properties. All of those factors together better lead to higher sales. I’m still discouraged that prices are still falling at a good clip. That just shows you that the home sales increase while encouraging, still are a long way off considering all the factors that led to higher sales.

I hate to be such a Debby Downer. I would love to say that prices are going to come back soon and this is bottom of the market (especially since I bought a place the end of 2006), but I just don’t see it soon. There are too may downward pressures. High un-employment, foreclosures all over the place, and these option loan resets that nobody is really talking about yet that could just explode pretty soon here. Sorry, there is my rant!

prices won't bottom or stabilize let alone rise again until ALL of the foreclosure deadwood is off the market.

Any sale that has even a whiff of "distress" will have that show in the price.

The volume of transactions in mid summer better be high. The season alone (setting aside the tax credit etc) should be producing these numbers. If the tax credit is needed to make them happen then we have even longer to wait.

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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
Baltimore Sun articles by Jamie

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