Maryland housing market: ‘It’s going in the right direction’ -- Gazette.Net


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Maryland’s housing market continued to recover in May, so much so that one report this week cited a potential seller’s market in the area that includes Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Existing home sales last month across Maryland rose by 10.5 percent from a year earlier and pending sales increased by 6 percent, according to figures released this week by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems and the Maryland Association of Realtors. The median home sales price jumped by 11 percent to about $259,000, while the average sales price rose 9 percent to almost $307,000.

“It’s going in the right direction,” said Carlton J. Boujai Jr., board president-elect of the Maryland Association of Realtors. “Average days on the market are down. Inventory is down. The list price to sales price ratio is up. ... We haven’t seen numbers like these for awhile.”

Montgomery and Howard were among counties reporting the largest jumps in the state last month. Howard saw a 40 percent leap in existing sales from a year ago, which followed a 22 percent gain in April. Montgomery had a 21 percent jump in sales in May, following a 4 percent nudge up in April.

Howard has seen sales increases in every month so far this year, while Montgomery’s first two positive months were in April and May. Montgomery saw a 12 percent rise in median sales price in May to almost $400,000, while Howard’s was unchanged at $365,000.

Foreclosures up from April

The market continues to see foreclosures and short sales — distressed sales in which the seller seeks less than what he owes on the mortgage and the lien holder agrees to accept that lower amount, which can prevent foreclosures.

Foreclosure filings in Maryland increased by 20 percent in May from April, although they declined by 4 percent from May 2011, according to housing data company RealtyTrac of Irvine, Calif. That followed the national trend, which saw an increase of 9 percent from April but a 4 percent decline from May 2011.

Prince George’s County and Baltimore City continued to lead Maryland in foreclosure filings, accounting for almost half of the statewide total in May. One out of roughly 1,400 households in the state saw a foreclosure filing last month, lower than the national rate of one per 639 housing units. Prince George’s was the only Maryland jurisdiction with a rate higher than the national average.

“While I’m pleased and optimistic about the housing market, I am concerned about the number of foreclosures and short sales,” Boujai said. “As the economy continues to improve, I expect to see less of this.”

Banks are doing a better job of processing the distressed properties and helping get them off the market, said Linda Simpson, district vice president for Prince George’s County with the state Realtors group and an agent with Weichert Realtors in Rockville.

“There is a shortage of affordable housing that doesn’t need a significant amount of work,” Simpson said.

More of the foreclosure filings will likely end up as short sales or auctioned off to third parties, rather than bank repossessions, according to RealtyTrac.

A seller’s market?The more recent trends in the Washington, D.C., region, which includes Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, “signal that it is a seller’s market heading into the summer months,” says a report this week by RealEstate Business Intelligence, a subsidiary of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems of Rockville.

Prince George’s bucked the trend as one of the few counties in Maryland to see a year-over-year sales decline last month of 2.6 percent, though the median price increased by 7 percent to $170,000. Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City saw year-over-year increases in sales and prices last month.

Most properties with which Simpson has worked in the past few months have had multiple offers and sold for higher than the list price, she said.

“It is somewhat more of a seller’s market than a year ago in some areas,” said Simpson, who focuses mostly on Prince George’s and Washington. “It depends on the area.”

Frederick County, where Boujai focuses as an agent at Exit Realty Prosperity Group in Frederick, had a slight increase in sales last month, its third positive month of 2012. The median sales price in the county was up 9 percent in May to about $238,000.

“We have the lowest inventory in many years in Frederick County,” Boujai said. Active listings in the county were down 30 percent in May from a year ago, a little more than the statewide decline of 26 percent.

“A lot of people are complaining that they can’t find anything to buy,” he said.

Sellers who have realistic expectations of what the market will bear have had good success, said Erik Windrow, an agent with Prudential PenFed Realtors in Ocean City.

“I’ve been thoroughly pleased with this year so far,” he said. “Last year, I was equally as busy. And it was a fantastic year for me. I was fortunate.”

Worcester County, which includes Ocean City, saw a 5 percent sales decline in May and a 27 percent decline in April. However, March showed a 23 percent rise. The median price was down 2 percent in May to $235,000.

Many people buy homes in the Ocean City area as investments, Windrow said. Those who understand that this year’s market is different from pre-2008, and price their home accordingly, sell faster, he said.

kshay@gazette.net