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Baltimore metro housing market posts strong March

(Flickr / Ian Muttoo / “For Sale” / CC BY-SA 2.0 / cropped and resized)

(Flickr / Ian Muttoo / “For Sale” / CC BY-SA 2.0 / cropped and resized)

An analysis of March’s housing data for the Baltimore metro area shows the market continuing to improve.

ShowingTime RealEstate Business Intelligence found the median home sales price was up 3.2 percent from last year; sales in March were up 11.2 percent year over year; and pending sales broke a previous high set last April.  The Baltimore metro area is defined in the analysis as Baltimore City and Baltimore, Harford, Carroll, Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

The data is from the Metropolitan Regional Information System.

The median sales price of a home in the metro area is beginning to creep back toward levels not seen since the housing bubble burst amid the nation’s 2008 financial collapse. In 2007 the median sales price for a home in March in the Baltimore area was $269,000. The median price this past month was $237,000 up from $230,000 last March and from a low point of $200,000 in March of 2011.

Howard County, with a March median sales price of $373,000, remains the most expensive in the area. Meanwhile, Baltimore City, by far, remains the cheapest market with a median sales price of $107,000.

Harford County experienced the highest year-over-year change in sales with a boost of 25.1 percent over last March. Baltimore was the lowest and the only jurisdiction to post a drop in sales, with less than 1 percent fewer sales than last year.

Another sign the city market is lagging behind suburban jurisdictions is Baltimore was the only market in the metro area to see an increase in year-over-year inventory, which indicates demand is not a strong as in other areas. Baltimore posted a 3.8 percent year-over-year increase, while the next closest jurisdiction in terms of performance, Baltimore County, saw its year-over-year inventory fall by .3 percent.

Improvement in the market comes at a key time as the residential real estate market moves into the spring, which is usually the peak of the sales season. A reliable indicator that spring is headed in a strong direction is the number of pending sales at the end of April. According to the report, there were 4,553 pending sales, which is a year-over-year increase of 17.9 percent. In 2007, at the peak of the market, there were 3,023 pending home sales that March.

Stuart Schmidt Jr., principal at Schmidt Home Consultants with Keller Williams Flagship of Maryland, said the market is in large part being driven by factors such as historically low interest rates, while rents are increasing because of continued strong demand. Strong job growth in the Baltimore metro area — a report from Cresa last month found year-over-year job growth exceeded 2.5 percent — is driven by employers like Amazon and Under Armour, he said.

“We’ve been working with a lot of investors that are still doing a lot of rehabbing. So, we’re steadily improving conditions of properties that have been distressed and you’re seeing first-time homebuyers out there in the market, with good jobs, and are ready to get out there and purchase because it’s cheaper than rent,” Schmidt said.

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.