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By the numbers: Baltimore housing prices remain high 18 months into coronavirus pandemic

A year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, home prices in the Baltimore metro area remain high, even as inventory improves and demand trends slightly below last year’s levels.

Buyers are seeking out single-family homes at high price points and luxury condos in particular, according to data provided by MarketStats by ShowingTime based on listing activity from Bright MLS, the region’s multiple listing service.

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Overall, Bright MLS tracking data shows that consumer demand rose slightly between July and August, but is still about 6% lower than the same time period the year before. Meanwhile, the number of showings has dropped 16% since last August, but has jumped close to 60% since 2019, data shows.

Last month saw the highest number of sales in the month of August in a decade, and median sales prices hit a 10-year high for the month, according to Bright MLS.

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Here are additional insights extracted from the Bright MLS housing market update for August:

Median sales prices

Baltimore-area homes sold for a median price of $345,000 in August, slightly lower than the previous month but close to 6% higher than the year before.

The numbers reflect a tendency for activity to peak in the springtime and ebb by the end of the summer.

“It’s a return to some semblance of seasonality,” said Elliot Eisenberg, consulting economist for Bright MLS. “It isn’t the all-time high, but it’s still the 10-year high for the month of August.”

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Consumers are paying a median of 100% of the original listing price, according to Bright MLS. Median means that half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Townhomes had a particularly strong month, selling at a median of $275,000.

Prices were especially high in Harford County, where detached homes sold for a median price of $439,900 and townhomes sold for a median of $272,200, all-time records for the jurisdiction in both housing categories.

Median prices in Baltimore City, meanwhile, are up 41% since August 2019 and more than 14% since this time last year.

Closed sales

The sales of more homes closed in August 2021 than any other August on record.

Last month, 4,585 units sold, according to Bright MLS. In Baltimore County, closed sales hit a decade high, at 1,173.

Closed sales for attached homes also hit 10-year milestones in Carroll and Harford counties.

Sales are up both monthly and yearly, Eisenberg said. The same is not true for neighboring metro areas such as Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

“Baltimore is stronger, late summer, than the other markets,” he said.

Median days on the market

For the first time in four months, the median number of days a home spent on the market increased but only barely.

Homes sold last month in a median of seven days, up a day from the previous month.

Relative to other years, homes are still selling at dizzying speeds. A year ago, the median number of days on the market was 10. Two years ago, it was 26.

Some counties continue to fare better than others. Harford County homes sold at a median of five days, and homes in Howard and Carroll counties sold in a median of six days.

Inventory

Inventory, which has remained at less than one month’s supply for much of the coronavirus pandemic, improved slightly last month.

At current levels, there is now slightly more than a month’s supply based on the current pace of selling. But housing stock is still down from both August 2020 and August 2019.

Eisenberg said while trends might be moving in the right direction, they still remain far off from where they need to be.

A shortage of inventory has troubling implications, especially for first-time homebuyers and those seeking affordable options. With demand staying moderately high, prices likely will continue to be pushed up until inventory recovers to pre-pandemic levels.

“Is the market cooling? Maybe slightly,” Eisenberg said. “Is it cool? Certainly not.”

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