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How-to Monday: Finding typical asking prices

If you’d rather know the typical asking price of unsold homes on the market rather than the typical price of the ones that sell -- a useful bit of information nowadays -- then you’re in luck. HousingTracker.net collects that data. You can check out trends in the Baltimore metro area or other major metros, plus a calculation of housing affordability.

The median asking price in the Baltimore area was $308,000 as of Oct. 1. That's down a fraction of a percent from a month earlier and about 9 percent off from a year ago.

Ben Engebreth, software developer and real estate hobbyist, started the site for a simple reason.

He was tracking the statistics anyway to satisfy his curiosity. (We here at Real Estate Wonk approve.) Three years ago, he was living in one of the hotspots of the housing boom -- Los Angeles -- and thought asking prices might give an indication of where things were headed.

Two years ago, figuring that asking prices were worth tracking in a variety of metro areas, he launched the site. It pulls data from the Realtors' multiple listing services.

"It’s a very rough measure of things, but it’s a timely measure of things," said Engebreth, who now lives in New York. "What it’s trying to do is just make a weekly inspection of listings available in a given metropolitan area, with the assumption that there might be some insight that you would get from being able to look at trends in price and inventory.”   

He adds: "I don’t mean for it to be the be-all, end-all site -- I don’t have perfect faith in the numbers. You can get better numbers by contacting local people. But you still have the problem that those numbers aren’t published very often and you can’t look at a big picture and look at all places with any reasonable timeliness. It’s one of those trade-offs. The more often you’re able to look at something, usually the less perfect it becomes, but I think it adds value."

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