"I'm banking on Havre de Grace becoming another Annapolis," says Jerry Hansen, manager of Century 21-The Atlantic Agency in Havre de Grace, where 100-year-old houses on Union Avenue are being renovated and new waterfront condominiums are attracting buyers.
Overall, though, his sales are flat in Harford County, Mr. Hansen said. "From last August, our business dropped 50 percent."
He attributed much of the drop in business to after-effects of the Persian Gulf war. There is not the usual flow of military transfers to and from the military base at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Mr. Hansen is hoping for a turnaround in the military business, and has recently started receiving inquiries from military workers planning to return from European bases.
On the other side of the county, Marge Wolff of Prudential Preferred Properties in Bel Air, the county seat, said her business is up 25 percent from last year.
Ms. Wolff noted that there are fewer shoppers for houses priced from $70,000 to the mid-$90,000s -- houses that typically appeal to first-time homebuyers. Many such buyers are thought to be apprehensive about the additional costs for Federal Housing Administration mortgages that go into effect July 1. Under the new FHA rules, buyers will not be able to finance all their closing costs through the mortgage, necessitating more cash upfront.
The Harford market also is slow for houses costing $500,000 or more, but there is a strong market for houses priced from $150,000 to $210,000, Ms. Wolff said.
While there are more houses on the market these days, reasonably priced houses do not stay on the market very long, Mr. Hansen said.
Some buyers who have been trying to take advantage of the slow real estate market have been making offers of about 25 vTC percent below asking prices -- with limited success, Mr. Hansen said.
But Mr. Hansen recently sold a house for someone transferred to Detroit, and after four months finally accepted a $77,000 bid on a house whose asking price was $100,000.
"The folks who are eager to sell are aggressive about it," he said.