First-time homebuyers have been coming out in force in Harford County since January -- helping revive a segment of the county's housing market that suffered only a moderate decline in 1990, county realty experts say.
"We're having a ripple up effect. When first-time buyers buy, that automatically releases the trade-up buyers who have sold their homes to the first-time market," says Therese Redmond, vice president of the Harford County Association of Realtors.
Ms. Redmond says Harford County has a large inventory of affordable town house properties, priced between $85,000 and $110,000, that attract first-time buyers from throughout the metropolitan area.
For the same money spent, buyers in Harford can get a more spacious town house than elsewhere in the region, insists Ms. Redmond, sales manager for Century 21-Diana Realty Inc. in Bel Air.
"We have affordable housing when you look at the prices in Howard and Baltimore counties. And our taxes are a little bit lower," says Ms. Redmond, noting that relative freedom from congestion has also been a point in Harford's favor in the opinion of many homebuyers.
Given relatively high demand for Harford real estate, especially starter town house properties, "prices have been staying pretty firm," according to Ms. Redmond.
Since war broke out in the Persian Gulf, lower-priced properties have been selling more quickly, Harford realty specialists say.
"Before January, people were apprehensive about what was going to happen to the war and once it happened, they felt less apprehensive. I don't know why they feel that way but they do," says Joan Ryder, who is president of the Harford County Association of Realtors.
Ms. Redmond says that it now generally takes 90 to 150 days to sell a Harford property in the $150,000 to $200,000 price range. That's about the same amount of time it took to sell like properties in 1990.
However, homes with prices below $150,000 are moving more swiftly than they did in 1990. A seller with a property in this range can now expect it to move in 60 days, half the time it took in 1990, according to Ms. Redmond.