Baltimore-area home sales rose 14 percent in September compared with a year ago -- thanks primarily to low mortgage rates, the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors reported.
"The numbers are wonderful. We're very happy," said Nancy C. Hubble, a Roland Park real estate executive and the board's president-elect.
The September increase marked the fourth consecutive month of increased closings, which includes both new and resold homes, Ms. Hubble noted.
"The market is very active," noted Mary Bell Grempler, chairman of Grempler Realty Inc., a Towson-based chain.
Ms. Grempler, too, credited the higher sales figures to low
mortgage rates, which in many cases have fallen to the 7.5 percent range or even lower for 30-year fixed-rate loans.
Mortgage rates have been moderate through much of 1992, but Ms. Grempler said many Baltimore-area residents did not immediately realize what buying opportunities the low mortgage rates presented them.
"I think people are just catching on to the chance to re-buy at low rates," she said.
In addition to low mortgage rates, another factor propelling home sales in the Baltimore market is that sellers are pricing their homes more moderately, said Alice Burch, Baltimore regional manager for the Long & Foster real estate chain. "We have, in many instances, educated the sellers to price more realistically than they had been," she said.
The average price of a home in the Baltimore area remained virtually unchanged in September at $125,859, compared to $125,144 last year, the board said in its report issued Monday.
The Baltimore-area market is strengthening more quickly than the Washington market, according to real estate executives in the region.
"Baltimore has a more stable business community. There's been more bad economic news in Washington," said George Eastment, a senior vice president at Long & Foster's headquarters in Fairfax, Va. He noted that several Washington-based retail chains, such as Raleigh's, have recently failed.
"Washington used to be a go-go market, and everyone stretched to have the best house they could. Now it's a very conservative market," Mr. Eastment said.
The total number of Baltimore-area housing units on which sales settled in September reached 1,468. At the same time, the total numberof pending sales rose 15 percent, to 1,346 in September.
The dollar volume of settled residential sales was also up in September, by 14 percent, compared to a year ago, with $184.8 million insales.
The figures reported by the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors involve both new and existing home sales as reported to the Central Maryland Multiple Listing Service, a subsidiary of the board.
The data reflect activity in Baltimore City, as well as Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Carroll counties. Figures for Anne Arundel County were not included.