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The coronavirus pandemic accelerates Maryland home buying, increases median prices, again in November

The coronavirus pandemic continues to not only accelerate home buying in Maryland but also drive up median prices in the state, with November’s sale figures surging to a decade high.

Last month’s median price in the region eclipsed October’s, reaching a 10-year November high of $322,000. Statewide, homes are spending an average of eight says on the market, down from 30 days this time last year and level with a month ago, according to data provided by MarketStats by ShowingTime based on listing activity from Bright MLS.

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The state saw 2,187 homes sell in 10 days or less and closings on a total of 3,835 houses, a 32.4% jump from last November.

Meanwhile, the state’s supply of homes for sale dwindled further, perpetuating the furious buying pace and soaring prices. Maryland has a little more than a month’s inventory, down more than 56% since last November.

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Fueled by historically low mortgage interest rates and newly realized needs for additional home space, some buyers have taken advantage of the conditions created by the coronavirus pandemic to purchase properties. But the pandemic also threatens to create long-term affordability problems for people who lost their jobs during the public health crisis, as well as other low-income earners — especially as limited supply forces prices higher and more properties sell in bidding wars.

But those who have kept their jobs and decreased their spending activity during the pandemic have taken advantage of the housing market to purchase properties at record-low mortgage interest rates, which makes buying a home more affordable even if it means borrowing more.

November’s $322,000 median price point is the second-highest monthly level on record, and an increase of 17.1% since last year, MLS data show.

New pending sales, or those still processing, have increased 24% since last November, but have dropped more than 18% since last month. Usually, the state sees its peak buying activity in the spring, though the season got off to a late start this year due to pandemic-related temporary shutdowns and stay-at-home orders and has not let up since.

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In some counties, the median price has far exceeded the state’s. Anne Arundel County, for example, set a November record of $450,000 for single-family home median price. Some cities and towns have also fared especially well; Elkridge, for example, saw listings close for $375,000 on average, up 22.2% since last year.

In Baltimore, homebuyers have flocked to a variety of neighborhoods, with Canton, Belair-Edison, Riverside, Hampden and Patterson Park having the most activity so far. The city saw 776 sales in November, a record for the month. It was only the second time in the last decade a November had 700 or more sales, according to figures from Live Baltimore, Baltimore’s marketing arm.

The city already has exceeded last year’s total sales volume, with a month left to go in the calendar year, according to a fact sheet provided by Live Baltimore. Price gains are most pronounced in the lower middle and distressed market groups, where they have now increased 24% and 28%.

City homes are spending a median 16 days on the market, MLS data show.

“As evidenced by our sale speed, buyers are competing for available homes all across Baltimore,” Live Baltimore executive director Annie Milli said in a statement. “Sales in historically distressed markets show there is demand for renovated properties throughout the City. This growth — in a diversity of communities — is a bright end to what has otherwise been a difficult year.”

Carroll, Howard and Harford county homes are spending a median of six days on the market, and Baltimore County homes are trailing closely behind at seven days.

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