September: Home sales down 19%
Home sales fell 19 percent in the Baltimore metro area in September, compared with a year earlier -- the third month in a row of declines.
Sept. 30 was the official end of the homebuyer tax credit, the last day to close on a deal. But the real rush happened by June 30, the deadline that Congress extended at the last minute -- which is why sales have dropped since.
Contract-signing is continuing to drop, too -- an early warning signal of what's to come with sales, since it takes a month or two to close on most deals. Buyers signed 25 percent fewer contracts in September than their counterparts a year earlier in the metro area, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.
The price stats require real scrutiny. The average is up about 2 percent in the metro area, and much more strongly in some counties. But are sellers actually getting 2 percent more for their homes than people with similar homes got a year ago?
We're seeing the "changing mix" problem that we've chatted about before. If fewer first-time buyers are closing on starter homes now than they were a year ago, when the $8,000 tax credit was around, then the average sale price will probably rise even if everyone's getting less for their particular homes. (Or, in the city, the average will probably fall farther, because investors buying cheaper rentals become a more important part of the market as traditional-homeowner-type buying decreases.)
Metro-wide, the number of homes sold for less than $250,000 in September dropped 23 percent vs. a year ago. The number of homes changing hands for $500,000 or more? Up. Just a bit, but that sure helps explain why the average rose. (Median, too.)
In other housing-related drama, Bank of America announced Friday that its temporary freeze on foreclosure sales is now nationwide. That's either great news for the housing market or terrible news, depending on whom you ask.