Home sales in Carroll County increased by 15.4 percent in 2016, according to the Maryland Association of Realtors, the fifth-largest one-year increase among the 24 jurisdictions in the state.
In Carroll, 2,510 units were sold in 2016 compared to 2,175 sold in 2015. Only Calvert, Kent, Dorchester, and Garrett counties saw sales improve by more than Carroll's 15.4 percent.
Meanwhile, Carroll's average price on the homes sold increased by 5.5 percent, from $289,419 to $305,394, according to the MAR report. The county's median home sales price increased 7.5 percent, from $270,866 to $291,161.
"I'm looking forward to 2017. I think it's going to be a good year in Carroll County," said Steve Meszaros, past president of the Maryland Association for Relators and Berkshire Hathaway Homesale Realty's executive vice president.
Meszaros said many of Carroll County's distressed properties have been absorbed over the last few years and properties are now selling closer to their market value.
"It helps create a normal market," Meszaros said.
Meszaros also cited Carroll County's employment rate as a contributing factor.
"Jobs create a better real estate market," Meszaros said. "Where there's employment, there's people buying houses."
It was a good year overall for Maryland. Residential sales in the state increased by 9.5 percent in 2016, or almost 7,000 homes, according to the MAR report.
"We are pleased with the overall increase in residential sales volume throughout the state during 2016," said MAR President Shelly Murray in a prepared statement. "While average and median prices are still below pre-recession levels, we believe that the sales activity indicates that housing prices are stable. We look forward to a vibrant market in 2017."
The average price of a Maryland home that sold in 2016 went up 2.6 percent to $309,502. The median price went up 3.7 percent to $267,431.
Meszaros said the recent increase in interest rates played a role in late 2016 home sales.
"When interest rates go up, people will get off the fence and hurry up and buy because they're afraid they'll go higher," Meszaros said. "I think we'll see a good market as people anticipate higher rates."
Meszaros said he believes the market is resetting and "getting to where it needs to be."
Realtor Chrissy Redding, of RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Westminster, agreed.
"So many people have been holding off but now people are more interested in buying," Redding said.
Redding said buyers in their mid-to-late 20s are now ready to buy for the first time. She also said people who were hit by the recession now "have credit scores within a range where a bank will lend them money."
"It's not going to be anything like it was in the early 2000s because lenders are more conservative but I think there's a steady increase on the horizon," Redding said.
Realtor Janice Kirkner, with Long and Foster in Eldersburg, attributed the increase to reasonable gas prices and the quality of life in Carroll County.
"I think we get a fair amount of business because Howard County prices are higher and you can get a little more house for the money here," Kirkner said. "With gas prices being more reasonable, people aren't as hesitant to travel."
Kirkner said her customers also enjoy that the county is "a little more rural."
"They like the way of life in Carroll County," Kirkner said. "We offer a little less hectic way of life. As long as the market continues to remain as good as it, we're going to see continued growth."