Unrest still affecting Baltimore housing market, report says

The unrest is continuing to affect Baltimore's housing market, according to a new report.

The impact of the April unrest on Baltimore's housing market continues to reverberate, a report released Thursday shows, with some markers of the city's residential real estate health sliding.

Before May, the city's housing market was growing at a rate similar to that of the rest of the metro area, but that month pending contracts plunged. In June and July the numbers recovered slightly, but in August, Baltimore was the only jurisdiction in the area to see a decline — 1.7 percent — in pending contracts, according to the analysis from the research arm of the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, the region's multiple listing service.

"The data suggest that there are lingering effects in the City of Baltimore from the April civil unrest," wrote the report's author, Elliot Eisenberg of RealEstate Business Intelligence.

In late April, rioting broke out after a week of peaceful protests following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody. The unrest, coupled with a weeklong curfew, pinched other measures of the city's economic health, including hotel bookings and restaurant sales.

Still, compared to the same time last year, the city's housing market shows growth, and some real estate analysts said the unrest's impact hasn't been catastrophic.

"It definitely had a dampening effect on a month-to-month comparison of sales, compared to last year, but if we look at it on the entire year basis, we're actually ahead," said John L. Heithaus, RBI's vice president of sales. "The big picture is the year-over-year numbers are really good."

Across the metro area, there were about 3,300 closed sales in August, a 17 percent rise from August last year. New contracts were up nearly 13 percent to their highest August level in a decade.

The median August sales price of $250,000 in the Baltimore region was up $5,000 from 2014. And inventories rose about 1 percent to more than 14,000 active listings.

In the city, however, homes are lingering on the market for several days longer on average compared to the rest of the region, according to the report. Pending contracts in Baltimore, while up over the year before, began lagging behind the rest of the region in May.

The median sales price in the city fell 9.7 percent to $116,500. And closed sales were up about 10 percent year-over-year in August in Baltimore, compared to 17 percent for the region.

Some real estate agents said if growth in the city was slowing relative to the rest of the area, they weren't noticing it.

Cindy Ariosa, who oversees sales in the Baltimore area for Long & Foster, said agents in its four offices in Baltimore — in Federal Hill, Fells Point, Canton and Hampden — all had more sales in August compared to last year.

She said homes priced between $200,000 and $250,000 often were attracting multiple offers, indicating that a lot of first-time homebuyers are entering the market.

"It couldn't be more of a sellers market right now," she said. "And interest rates are still unbelievably historically low and I think that's helping us fuel the marketplace."

Anne Henslee, co-owner of boutique real estate firm Henslee Conway Real Estate Brokerage Inc., described the real estate market in Baltimore as mixed and unpredictable.

The unrest "didn't help," she said, but other factors were in play as well, including a slow start to the year because of poor weather in early spring and signs of hesitance from some would-be buyers.

"It is certainly not a dead market, it's just an unpredictable one," Henslee said. "Some properties that should be flying off are sitting while others have gotten multiple offers. So it's an unusual year for real estate, for many different reasons."

cwells@baltsun.com

Baltimore region real estate market in August

LocaleSalesMedian price% change

Baltimore metro area3,318$350,000+2%

Baltimore County930$215,000+0.5%

Anne Arundel County745$315,000-1.7%

Baltimore City680 $116,500-9.7%

Howard County401$407,925+2%

Harford County333$255,505-3.6%

Carroll County229$295,000+3.5%

Source: RealEstate Business Intelligence

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