Price point, price point, price point
Location, schmocation -- the really interesting trend in the housing market today is about price range.
To wit: Half the homes that sold last month in the Baltimore metro area were under $250,000. A year earlier, it was 42 percent. In August 2007, it was 40 percent.
A year ago, the same number of homes sold for less than $150,000 as sold for $500,000 or more. Last month, a change of fortunes: Buyers snapped up 30 percent more under-$150 homes and 8 percent less in the half-mil range.
So, more people are getting less-pricey homes. But how easy is it to sell one?
If you'll recall, there's a number in real estate that helps you tell if it's a buyer's, seller's or balanced market. How many months would it take to find buyers for all listed homes at the current pace of sales?
This is called "months' supply," and the generally accepted balanced-market figure is six. More than that, and it's no fun for sellers. Less than that, and buyers start feeling the pinch.
Here's how things stood in the Baltimore metro area last month, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems data:
In the $200,000-$249,999 price range, there was a 6.3-month supply. Yup, just a bit over the magic number.
In the $150,000-$199,999 price range, the figure was 7.3.
In the $100,000-$149,999 price range, it was 9.7.
And under $100,000, it was 13. (Rehab-required places in search of investors?)
As for pricier ranges:
There was a 7.4-month supply of homes priced at $250,000 to $349,999.
... a 7.8-month supply of homes priced at $350,000 to $499,999.
... a 14.3-month supply of homes at or above $500,000. (Get up to the $2.5-million-plus category, and the months' supply is more than 100.)
So a sweet spot appears to be $200-$249k.
But slice the data even more thinly, and you'll see that the $400,000 to $449,999 range had a 5.4-month supply. Whoa! That's a big improvement from last year, driven both by an increase in sales and a decrease in listings. Are all the move-up folks who sold $200,000-$249,000 homes buying $400,000-$449,000 ones?