Baltimore-area home sales up in November

The Baltimore Sun

There were more homes sold in November than in October in the Baltimore area — reversing the fall-to-winter slowdown typically seen in Central Maryland’s housing market.

Last month, 2,017 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 50 more closings than in October.

Real estate agents attribute the increase to buyers snapping up the best of what’s left in a shrinking pool of homes for sale. There were 10,777 active listings last month in metro Baltimore, the lowest level since early 2006.

Low inventory levels have caused “kind of a flurry” among buyers, said David McIlvaine Sr., an agent based in Ellicott City and a past president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

“There are multiple offers — there’s no question about it,” said McIlvaine, recounting a Pasadena home that recently had four offers placed on it. When the selected buyer fell through, four more offers were soon on the table, he said.

The regional market has hit bottom, he said, and prices are steadily going back up. That, combined with low mortgage interest rates, is making buyers more confident, he said.

According to RBI, the median number of days on the market for a house sold last month was 48, down 33 days from November 2011. The sale-to-list-price ratio also creeped up, past 92 percent, meaning that last month final prices of Baltimore-area homes were closer to sellers’ asking prices than in Nov. 2011.

Potential sellers should consider this a good time to test the water, McIlvaine said. They should quickly be able to determine what the reception is to their home, he said. Although prospective buyers may take a break from looking during the holidays, browsing will resume in early January, he said.

Despite the positive outlook for sellers, the inventory does not appear to be growing rapidly. There were 2,513 new listings in November — a mere 13 more than in November 2011.

November also saw significantly more homes sold than in the same month last year, when there were about 3,500 more active listings. There was a 24 percent increase in home sales compared to November 2011, when 1,626 homes sold in metro Baltimore.

Sale prices were up, too. In a year-over-year comparison, the median price of a home sold in Baltimore and its five surrounding counties was up 3.5 percent in November — an increase of about $8,000, RBI said.

“There’s just nothing good out there,” said Marney Kirk, a Timonium-based real estate agent. In recent weeks, she said, four clients have put homebuying on hold because there was nothing on the market that interested them. That’s as true for people looking in Baltimore’s waterfront neighborhoods as in the suburbs, she said.

“It’s not as bad as 2006,” when inventory was even lower, but listings that received no attention at this time last year are getting multiple offers, she said.

For instance, a Mays Chapel condominium that recently settled received three offers, Kirk said. That was unexpected, she said, because for the past few years condos have been difficult to sell.

“You could barely give them away” unless they were in elevator buildings and had a garage, Kirk said.

That’s no longer the case, according to RBI’s data. The condo segment of the Baltimore-area market saw a nearly 50 percent increase in sales over November 2011. From the beginning of the year through November, condos made up 12.5 percent of the Baltimore area’s sales — the “highest proportion on record for condos with data available back to 1997,” said a statement from RBI.

The improvement in the condo market may be due to more condos becoming certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for Federal Housing Administration financing.

In September, the housing department eased FHA certification rules, making more condos eligible for the federal approval. And as the economy has improved, fewer homeowners are delinquent on mortgage payments, a major factor that the FHA uses to determine a condo’s eligibility.

Without FHA financing, a third of the Baltimore-area’s potential condo buyers are out of the game, Kirk said.

November’s unseasonable uptick in the number of homes sold is not expected to continue into December, RBI said. There were 2,213 contracts signed in November, up 6.5 percent from November 2011, but down 15 percent from October. The 10-year average decline in contracts signed from October to November is 13.9 percent, according to RBI. 

JurisdictionMedian sales price, Nov. 2012Percent change, Nov. 2011 compared to Nov. 2012Metro Baltimore$230,0003.5%Anne Arundel$290,0005.5%Baltimore city$114,95022.3%Baltimore$200,000No changeCarroll$247,0000.8%Harford$235,0005.0%Howard$375,5009.1%

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