Home sales in 30 days or less vs. a year-plus
Just over a quarter of the Baltimore-area homes that changed hands in April got under contract in 30 days or less -- about 540 in all. That's a lot more than the number of sales that took at least a year (115, or 6 percent).
Here's what the stats don't say but I'd like to know: How many of the homes that haven't sold yet have languished for upwards of a year? Or have bounced on and off the market as their owners test the waters with no success?
I frequently hear from real estate agents that the first few weeks are critical for a seller. Price the home competitively right off the bat, put it on the market in good condition, make sure you have tons of photos online, etc., and your odds of buyer interest are pretty good -- or at least as good as you can make it given that demand for your neighborhood is mostly outside your control. But what about the homes whose sellers (and/or agents) don't get it right from the get-go and have to adjust course a month or three later?
One way of reading the sales statistics is that it gets progressively harder to sell:
|Days on market||# sold||% of total|
|30 days or less||539||27%|
|31 to 60||235||12%|
|61 to 90||194||10%|
|91 to 120||172||9%|
|121 to 180||302||15%|
|181 to 360||443||22%|
|361 to 720||100||5%|
|721 days or more||15||1%|
Source: Metropolitan Regional Information Systems' RealEstate Business Intelligence. Baltimore metro area statistics include Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County.
The share of total sales does tick up for the 121-to-180 and 181-to-360 categories, but keep in mind that both are multiple months -- and each has a smaller piece of the pie than the 30-days-or-less group.
One of the tricky things about days-on-market statistics, though, is that you can pull your home off the market, wait for a while and get back on with a restarted clock. Odds are that some of the homes selling quickly in April had been listed last year to no avail and came back later with a lower price, better amenities and/or more aggressive marketing.
When I wrote in February about some homes selling speedily and others sitting forever, Wonk reader fronesis said 10 months of searching for a home really emphasized this either-or pattern: "I think this 'super quick and very slow' phenomenon is a product of a falling market in which prices going down are sticky. Even though the market is now leveling off, there are still tons of homes that are overpriced. The ones that are priced right, go quickly; the others just sit there.
"And here's what exacerbates the phenomenon: if a home STARTS off overpriced, then it will take longer to sell, EVEN AFTER the price is lowered to a fair market price."
Just in case you're wondering: 70 percent of Baltimore-area homes sold in April 2005 -- near the peak of the frenzy -- went in a month or less. If you couldn't sell quickly in those days, you were really doing something wrong.