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Monthly home sales up in Baltimore region, though prices dip

The number of home sales and new listings were up last month in the Baltimore region from a year earlier, but home prices overall continued to fall, according to a monthly real estate analysis.

The median sales price of $230,000 last month for the city and five surrounding counties included in the report was down nearly 4 percent from November 2013, the fifth month this year that prices have been below the mark of a year earlier. The median price for the year-to-date, however, shows prices are essentially the same as last year, according to the report from RealEstate Business Intelligence, a company that analyzes real estate data for industry professionals in the Mid-Atlantic region.

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"I don't see any significant movement," said Ross Mackesey, president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

Corey Hart, senior product manager with RBI, said the report shows the market is "still pretty much balanced" with significant advantage to neither seller or buyer.

The reports suggests the best news lies in the numbers of sales and listings.

According to the RBI figures, the number of homes sold last month rose 6 percent compared to a year ago November — from 2,034 to 2,156. The number of new listings increased 2 percent, from 3,077 to 3,144.

While those figures are good, Mackesey pointed out that many of the transactions are foreclosed and bank-owned properties left from the real estate market collapse.

In Baltimore County, Mackesey said, 18 percent of November sales were foreclosures or bank-owned properties, sometimes called "distressed" properties. Last year the monthly figure was 10 percent.

Overall in the county, 79 more homes have sold this year compared to last, but 54 of these, or 68 percent, were "distressed" properties, Mackesey said.

"Still cleaning up our dirty laundry," he said. "We're getting into a stable market, we are approaching that. Obviously the distressed properties, that's just a sidelight we have to clean up.

"This is the same thing that's been going on all summer," Mackesey said.

The continuing prevalence of those sales continued to hold prices down overall, but don't necessarily reflect prices of conventional sales.

Home prices in Baltimore County for the first 11 months of 2014 were up 2.3 percent compared to the same period in 2013, were down 4.7 percent in the city and about flat everywhere else. The regional median sale price drop is off by one percentage point from a year ago.

"It's more pretty good news," said Mackesey, noting the virtue of moderation. "We don't want it to go crazy. That's what got us into trouble the last time, and the time before that, and the time before that."

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