The hot, hazy days of August are generally a sluggish month for residential real estate. But with interest rates at a 25-year low, August proved a strong month for the Baltimore-area realty market.
The number of settled sales rose 23 percent compared with a year earlier, and pending sales picked up 8 percent, according to the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.
"August is usually a very slow month," said Nancy Hubble, the board's president-elect and a partner at W.H.C. Wilson, a Roland Park realty firm. "The fact that it was an up month is a terrific sign."
The number of housing units settled in August was 1,912. Pending sales -- those still working their way through the buying process -- rose to 1,613 in August.
Total dollar volume of settled units also showed a substantial increase in August: up 27 percent, to $257.6 million. The average price of a house rose 2 percent, to $134,731.
The Baltimore realty board's numbers reflected sales of both new and used homes in Baltimore City and in Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Carroll counties. The Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors, which reports its data separately, has not released August figures.
"We're not out of the woods yet," said Michael Conte, director of the regional economic studies program at the University of Baltimore. "But people are starting to regain a sense of normalcy about the economy."
Although prospective homebuyers in such fields as the defense industry and regulated utilities remain insecure about their jobs, Mr. Conte said, many workers are feeling more optimistic and are beginning to buy first homes or move-up properties.
"The economy has begun to turn around for those people who have jobs," Mr. Conte said.