December was another positive month for home sales in metro Baltimore, though the market supply of homes continued to dwindle, dropping below 10,000 for the first time since February 2006.
Last month, 1,945 home sales closed in Baltimore and its five surrounding counties, according to data released Monday by RealEstate Business Intelligence LLC, an affiliate of the region's multiple-listing service. That’s a 3.6 percent drop from November, but a nearly 13 percent year-over-year increase.
The nearly 2,000 homes sold last month was the highest December total in six years, RBI said in a statement Thursday. December also marked the 11th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth.
But if the inventory drops too low, buyers could walk away from the market and wait until more desirable homes are posted for sale, the firm said. That could lead to a short-term decline in prices, it said.
“As we continue through the winter season, it is unlikely that a dramatic surge of new listings will enter the market,” RBI said. “This should keep upward pressure on prices as long as buyers remain active.”
There were only 9,674 homes on the market last month. In December 2011, there were more than 3,000 more than that available to buyers. The decline is largely based on a lack of detached homes. More townhomes and condos were actually on the market last month than in December 2011 — both had about 10 percent more supply.
From the region as a whole, the median sales price — $235,000 — was up $5,000 from November and up almost 7 percent from December 2011. That’s “the sharpest year-over-year gain since the summer and the highest December median price in three years,” RBI said.
“Late season price increases are not common for the region, with the 10-year average change at -0.3 percent,” said the firm, which worked with the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis to assess the December numbers. The shrinking supply of residences is probably the cause of the unusual trend, RBI concluded.
In all the Baltimore-area jurisdiction, save Harford County, prices were up over December 2011. Carroll County saw the greatest year-over-year price growth, a 16.7 percent bounce to a median sales price of $280,000.
Carroll’s median, though, is more susceptible to swings in price because it has fewer homes sold each month than neighboring jurisdictions. Just over 100 homes were sold in Carroll County last month, an increase of about 15 over December 2011.
Harford County’s median sales price for December was flat from a year earlier, remaining at $235,000. Howard County’s prices were also stable, increasing less than 2 percent, to a median of $350,000.
Baltimore’s median price was up about $13,000, to $120,000. Baltimore County saw a year-over-year bump of about $15,000, raising the median price last month to nearly $206,000.
Anne Arundel, where about 440 homes were sold in December, saw a median sales price increase over nearly 10 percent from a year earlier. The median price there last month was $290,000.
December closings showed that condominiums continued to be hot sellers throughout the end of the year. The condo segment of the market grew the most, compared to detached residences and townhouses, with the median price shooting up about 11 percent ($18,000) from December 2011.
Among the market segments, condos also had the largest year-over-year growth in new contracts signed during December. The number of condos that went under contract was up not quite 16 percent, compared to a 9.3 percent increase for single-family homes and 7.5 percent for townhouses.
The number of new contracts signed in December was down from November, but that’s in line with seasonal expectations.
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