Home sales and prices in the Baltimore region rose again in August amid a tight housing market in which the inventory of homes for sale has shrunk for 24 consecutive months.
The sales of just over 3,800 homes closed in August, up 1.5 percent from the same month last year, according to a ShowingTime report released Tuesday.
The median sales price in the region rose nearly 4 percent, to $265,000, the highest August price level since 2008, before the housing crunch, according to the monthly report, based on listing activity from MRIS, a division of the multiple listing service Bright MLS.
"The numbers are showing that inventory's tight," said Andrew Strauch, vice president of Bright MLS. "The question is ... when will that price appreciation begin to pull a little more inventory into the market?"
The number of active listings declined by 12.4 percent to 10,788 — the lowest August inventory the region has seen in a decade.
Strauch anticipates that scale finally tipping in the spring.
"Supply and demand will hit its balance," he said. "As prices creep up, inventory will start coming into the market."
In a positive sign for inventory, the region saw 4,749 new listings in August, up almost one percent from the same month last year.
The tight inventory means homes are selling fast and closer to the asking price.
Homes spent a median 26 days on the market, three days fewer than in the previous August. That remains about 25 to 30 percent below optimum levels, said Al Ingraham, president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.
Homebuyers paid an average of 95.9 percent of the listed price, a slight increase year-over-year and the highest level in a decade, the report said.
"The market remains strong, continuing the momentum of more than a year," Ingraham said in an emailed statement. "The only lingering issue seems to be the lack of inventory. Transaction values and closing volume are still at the highest levels in recent years."
Sales volume jumped the most in Baltimore, rising 7.6 percent to 837 home sales closed in August, the report found.
While the number of sales also rose in Baltimore and Howard counties in August, they dropped by 2.6 percent in Anne Arundel County, 7.9 percent in Carroll, and 9.3 percent in Harford, the report said.
"We're pleased to see another strong month for Baltimore City, coming off a string of strong months," said Annie Milli, executive director of Live Baltimore. "It's great to be talking about these same gains month after month."
Standard sales, excluding bank-owned and distressed properties, were up 9 percent compared to the previous August, according to an analysis of the MRIS data by Live Baltimore.
That metric gives a more accurate view of the number of buyers who actually plan to move into the homes, rather than outside investors purchasing properties, Milli said.
"That's one of the factors we're really monitoring — not only the sales being made, but who's making them," she said. "For [Baltimore City], where we do have that investor market, that's a very strong sign."
The city, however, was the only jurisdiction where the median sales price fell, dropping 3.5 percent, to $133,700, in August, the report said.
That's good news for people who want to move into Baltimore, Milli said.
"It's reflective of being the most affordable jurisdiction in the region," she said. "Prices in Baltimore City aren't shooting up as much as they are in adjacent counties. We like to see slow and steady growth. We think that makes for a healthy market."
In the five-county region, Harford and Carroll counties saw the biggest increase in median sales price since August 2016, rising 8.7 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively. The median sales price jumped $21,100 to $265,000 in Harford County, and $24,900 to $324,900 in Carroll County, according to the report.
The median sales price ticked up 5.6 percent to $331,500 in Anne Arundel County, 4.9 percent to $236,000 in Baltimore County and 2.5 percent to $410,000 in Howard County, the report found.