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Housing sale contracts plummet


Home sale contract signings in metropolitan Baltimore fell sharply in June as a spring rush of homebuyers trying to beat rising interest rates slowed.

After May and April recorded 1 percent decreases each month, the number of contracts signed for new and existing homes dropped 13 percent compared with June 1993, the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors said yesterday.

Realtors said sales have also slowed in early July.

"We are seeing the market taper off after a very brisk early summer," said Nancy C. Hubble, the board's president.

"Seasonally, the summer months are somewhat slower than the spring and fall, but this year many buyers jumped quickly into the market when the interest rates began to rise."

"I have slowed down," said Linda Bass Yaffe, a real estate agent with The Prudential Preferred Properties in Pikesville.

"As buyers wondered whether rates would keep going up, a lot got in [during] March and April. Maybe they came in a little earlier than normal, and now we're feeling the aftereffects."

Also, she said, "with rates going up, buyers are much more cautious. They won't just write a contract the first day."

Though June contract signings were down, the number of home sales as measured by closings were up 3 percent, reflecting contracts signed in April, the board said.

Realtors noted that a 5 percent drop in the number of new listings in June compared with last June -- as well as recent heat waves -- could be keeping buyers away.

"A lot are holding out until September because they want to see what's new in the fall market," Ms. Hubble said. "And of people thinking of selling, a lot don't want to deal with the heat and are waiting for September, the next big market."

The decreases in contract signings varied widely around the region, down as much as 31 percent in Harford and as little as 4 percent in Baltimore.

The average price of a home at closing in the region rose 4 percent in June, to $136,358.

In a separate report yesterday, the Baltimore Metropolitan BTC Council said building permits for new single-family homes and townhouses climbed 10.3 percent in May, compared with May 1993.

Builders in metropolitan Baltimore took permits for 945 homes, compared with 857 permits the previous May. The bulk of the May permits went to builders in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

But the number of permits for apartments and condominiums plummeted in May, from 212 units to 131 units.

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