August home sales in the Baltimore area
Here's August in a nutshell for the Baltimore-area housing market: Home sales up, prices down.
In a slightly larger nutshell, sales rose 6 percent in the Baltimore region vs. a year ago, while the average price slipped 5 percent.
The number of sales remains very low compared with the norm since the late 1990s, when Metropolitan Regional Information Systems began tracking the market. The number of homes listed for sale is dropping, though, so the time it would take to sell everything at the current pace is just under eight months -- close to what it was in August 2009, when the federal first-time home buyer tax credit was giving activity a bit of a boost.
Six months is generally thought of as a balancing point between demand and supply.
Wayne Yamano, director of research with John Burns Real Estate Consulting in California, emailed me some interesting thoughts about the buyer pool -- too late to make it into my housing-market story, but plenty of time for this blog post. Here's what he wrote:
A lot of people complain about not being able to get a mortgage, but the truth is that underwriting standards have not changed much since the beginning of the year. In fact, in the Fed’s latest survey of loan officers, standards had loosened slightly.
The real problem is that no one wants to buy a house right now, so they aren't even trying to get a mortgage. Mortgage applications have been down for a while now. A home is the biggest purchase that most people will ever make and there's just too much uncertainty out there right now. Economists can't even agree on whether there will be a double dip. We also don’t think there's a quality pool of buyers that’s just waiting to buy. Our builder clients tell us that most people that don't qualify for a loan don't have enough money for a down payment or have FICO scores that are too low. Both those issues don't improve overnight.
For today's story, I chatted with an Owings Mills retiree who would like to sell his home and an investment property, but not for the prices buyers are offering these days. That perspective -- and the flip side, buyers unwilling to buy at the prices sellers are asking -- gets discussed here a lot. I thought you all would appreciate his quote about would-be buyers and sellers waiting in hopes of better opportunities later:
"The question, of course, is who can hold out the longest," Bernardino Angel Gonzalez said.