Good news (at least temporarily) for regular homeowners trying to sell: The drop in foreclosures in the Baltimore region has pushed more buyers toward deals where the seller isn't a bank.
Such non-distress transactions jumped about 25 percent in March compared with a year earlier, while foreclosure sales fell by more than 50 percent. Analysts expect a reversal later this year in that steep foreclosure drop-off now that the national mortgage settlement is a done deal, but when (and how rapidly) is obviously still an open question.
A third category of transactions, short sales, rose strongly in March. It's still a relatively small part of the market, though -- one in every 10 sales.
This week's story about the March snapshot has some interesting background on foreclosures and how they might affect the market in the near term. But one thing I wasn't able get into there is how the bank-owned phenomenon is making it even harder to answer the burning question many homeowners have: What's happening to prices?
The drop in foreclosures pushed the average home sale price up 4 percent in the Baltimore region, but on the face of it, that good fortune seemed to largely benefit banks. Foreclosed homes sold for $140,000 on average, up 16 percent over last year, while non-distress sales saw an 8 percent drop in average price to $276,000, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems' RealEstate Business Intelligence arm.
Just to complicate things further, however, average (and median) prices are easily skewed up or down because buyers don't purchase the exact same sorts of homes each month. That's why some companies produce indexes that attempt to compare apples with apples.
One such firm, real estate data company Clear Capital, said it expects a modest increase in Baltimore-area home prices this year based on an upturn it saw in the last four months. Another company, John Burns Real Estate Consulting, said its own index also shows prices rising in the region, along with most parts of the country.
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