Median sale prices of existing homes last month rose year-over-year for the ninth consecutive month, along with sales volume spikes for the sixth straight month, according to figures released this week by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems and the Maryland Association of Realtors.
Continued low interest rates and inventory levels are driving factors for the string of increases, said Bonnie Casper, president of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors and an agent with Long & Foster’s Bethesda Gateway office. The state median price increased 8 percent last month from October 2011 to almost $240,000, while sales were up 14 percent.
In Montgomery County, sellers are getting about 95 percent of their asking price, up from about 91 percent during the Great Recession, Casper said.
Last month, sales in Montgomery rose 15 percent from October 2011 and the median price jumped 9 percent to $355,550, the highest in Maryland. The inventory supply in Montgomery was only three months, which was the lowest in Maryland and half the statewide average.
“Buyers are having to be more realistic in what they offer,” said Casper, who also is a board member of the Maryland Association of Realtors. “A lot of sellers are able to upsize and stay in the marketplace. That is huge.”
Mild temperatures in October could have played a role in Maryland’s increase in new contracts, as well as some areas seeing more listing activity, according to a report this week from RealEstate Business Intelligence, a subsidiary of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems of Rockville.
“The inventory of homes for sale continues to fall, which is playing a role in the price gains,” the report said. “Despite the rising prices, it is unlikely that the region will see an influx of active listings as we close out the year. Many would-be sellers are still facing equity losses, and economic uncertainty remains a concern.”
‘Fiscal cliff’ a concern
Casper was among the businesspeople who attended a forum on the local economy Thursday in Annapolis organized by the state Board of Revenue Estimates and Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D). Representatives from the financial, manufacturing, real estate and other industries spoke on conditions and challenges.
The annual forum helps board members update official state revenue estimates next month.
The so-called “fiscal cliff” — the combination of major federal budget cuts and tax increases will kick in Jan. 2 unless Congress intervenes — was a big concern, Casper said. She hadn’t seen much impact on the real estate market, though it could be keeping a few potential buyers and sellers on the sidelines for now.
“No one really knows what is happening with that,” Casper said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
The real estate market typically slows down this time of year through February after peaking in May and June, she said.
In October, Prince George’s showed a 20 percent hike in median prices to $180,000, while Howard saw a 6 percent jump to $350,000. Frederick had median prices decline by 1 percent to $250,000, though sales rose by 14 percent.
Counties in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore generally saw slower activity than those in Central Maryland. The lowest median prices in Maryland of $85,000 were recorded in Allegany and Somerset, with declines of 11 percent and 26 percent, respectively.