Carroll County mirrors upswing in national housing market

Residential real estate in Carroll County is on an upswing, which falls in line with the National Association of Realtors predictions for the next two years.

In October, 135 units were sold, 35 more than the same time last year, according to data from the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems. The average number of days a home is on the market has decreased as well, from 136 days in October of last year to 125 days this year.

These numbers are encouraging, said Pamela Stone, the president of the Carroll County Association of Realtors. Stone said at this point in time, different kinds of housing are having very different selling experiences.

Townhomes and duplexes are selling at a higher rate than single-family homes right now, Stone said.

"That simply goes back to the affordability and what people are able to manage as far as a mortgage payment," Stone said.

As of Friday, there were 786 active residential properties for sale. Most of them, 665, are standard sales; while 121 are considered potential short sales, foreclosures or bank owned properties, according to data from MRIS.

Walter Molony, the spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, said nationally there is both a demand in rentals and home sales. Banks are holding onto their capital at this point, and are unlikely to lend to first-time home owners, which is causing young people to hold off on buying a home, Molony said.

This creates a landlord's market, Molony said. Those who are purchasing homes right now tend to be older with well-established credit, he said.

When comparing whether the market is currently a buyer's or seller's market, home sales have been relatively balanced, Molony said.

Stone said when there is more than 6 months of inventory, or homes on the market, numbers indicate a buyer's market.

While Carroll County is currently at 5.8 months of inventory remaining on the market, she said the market is currently in transition and only time will tell.

The average price for a home sold in October in Carroll County was $273,396. While this is down more than $4,000 compared to October 2011, Stone said it wasn't necessarily a bad sign.

"I think that our pricing is leveling off," Stone said.

As the president of the Carroll County Association of Realtors, Stone said brokers are reporting improvements in activity and sales. The market is so hyper-local that brokers see major differences even depending on the ZIP code, Stone said.

In October, 44 of the 135 homes sold were in Westminster, according to data from MRIS. Sykesville had 37 homes sold. This points toward a three-year trend Stone has seen in Carroll County recently.

"We're seeing a trend that folks want to be close to school, people want to be close to their shopping, close to their work," Stone said.

The cost of gas could be reason why people are choosing to buy homes closer to town, Stone said. In any given month, Westminster, even though it is a larger ZIP code, tends to have more sales.

Given the size of the population and demographic demand, the National Association for Realtors said "normal," home sales would be between 5 and 5.5 million, Molony said.

For 2013, assuming the government avoids the fiscal cliff, the National Association for Realtors is projecting 5.05 million in home sales. By 2014, Molony said the National Association for Realtors projects a normal year of 5.3 million sales.

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