A year into the coronavirus pandemic, the Baltimore-area housing market continues to thrive.
The trends reflect the public health crisis’ continued hold on the economy, fueling demand for property and opening the consumer floodgates with record-low mortgage interest rates.
In March, the region’s median home sales price reached $315,000, a decade high and nearly 20% higher than March 2019, a year before the pandemic, according to data provided by MarketStats by ShowingTime based on listing activity from Bright MLS, the multiple listing service serving Baltimore. Median means half the 3,647 homes that sold closed for more than $315,000 and half closed for less. The median price was 5% higher than the median in February.
“These are all outcomes of a very tight market and people trying to make their way in this frenzy,” said Elliot Eisenberg, consulting economist to Bright MLS. “It’s hard to see home demand declining unless interest rates go bonkers.”
The median sales price for the first quarter of 2021 landed at $305,500, up 11% from a year earlier. Some 9,571 homes have sold this year, up 14% from the first quarter 2020, as well.
Meanwhile, the number of closed sales jumped 15% since last year, and nearly 30% from last month, which analysts considered to be an unusually strong February. Houses spent a median of seven days on the market, down two days from February and 18 days from March 2020, MLS data shows.
According to the real estate service, demand for property rose 25% since last month and 14% since March 2020. A Bright MLS analysis found that 50% of ZIP codes in the Baltimore metro area were considered to be in high demand in March, twice as many as the month before.
The low interest rates, coupled with a housing inventory shortage, have caused soaring demand for real estate, a sector of the economy that generally has not suffered over the past year. Other sectors, such as the service sector, have fared worse as in-person engagement opportunities dried up and the public stayed home.
Eisenberg said the housing shortage has serious long-term implications for the state, as well as the country.
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“There just are not enough homes being built as prices remain high,” he said. “We downplay the severity of this problem. We need millions of homes built.”
The housing supply limitations have sparked concerns from advocates and real estate agents, who say the availability of affordable homes likely will plummet as properties keep selling for high prices. Many have sold higher than their listing price, even out of bidding wars.
Town houses, typically cheaper than detached homes, also fared well last month, according to Bright MLS, reaching a median sales price of $250,000 — an 11% increase since last year. Town home prices in Anne Arundel and Howard counties rose to $380,200 and $392,300, respectively, all-time highs for each jurisdiction.
For the first quarter of 2021, homes spent a median of eight days on the market. In March, homes in each county hit an all-time low median number of days on the market. Homes in Carroll and Harford counties spent a median of five days on the market; six days in Anne Arundel and Howard counties; and seven days in Baltimore County.
In Baltimore City, homes’ median number of days on the market fell to 15 days, down from 49 days a year ago, according to MLS. Annie Milli, executive director of Live Baltimore, the city’s marketing arm, said Baltimore is on pace for record-breaking purchase activity this year.
“With each month of the first quarter shattering decades-old records, there is no question that demand for housing is high citywide,” Milli said.
A Live Baltimore analysis found last month to be the best March for selling activity in a decade “by far,” with 961 transactions.