Home prices in the Baltimore metro region continued a slow and steady climb in November, while sales grew sluggish, a seasonal trend exacerbated by economic uncertainty.
Home prices rose just over 4 percent in November compared with the same time last year, according to a Tuesday report by RealEstate Business Intelligence, a subsidiary of MRIS. Prices have been rising at about that rate for almost two years, although the numbers still fall short of the pre-recession peaks.
The median sales price in the Baltimore metro area was $239,450 in November, up from $230,000 in November 2012, but below November 2006’s $270,000, according to the RBI data, which are based on listing service information. In Anne Arundel and Carroll counties, the percentage increase rose in the double digits.
“It’s been a reasonable-sized change, but not too huge,” said Andres Carbacho-Burgos, a housing economist for Moody’s Analytics. “It shows that house prices are starting to recover.”
R. Andrew Bauer, a Baltimore-based senior regional economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, agreed, adding, “The fundamentals are in place for the housing market to continue to move forward solidly. The question is the pace.”
RBI data showed buyer activity slowing during the month, with about 2,000 units sold, down 10 percent from October and flat compared to last year, a seasonal trend that RBI’s analysis said was “intensified” by the shutdown of the federal government. The market update, which is compiled with George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, predicted a continuation of this trend in the coming months.
Maryland’s housing market is particularly vulnerable to uncertainty about government funding, with positions in the public sector or funded through federal contracts accounting for more than 27 percent of the state’s total jobs, according to a November study by the Mercatus Institute.
“It’s a little bit weird out there,” said Dominic Cantalupo of Champion Realty Inc. in Pasadena. “I just think people are still a little squeamish about diving in with both feet.”
Uncertainty in the economy makes people concerned about home values and hesitant to buy, particularly when confronted with a small number of desirable properties, said Stephanie Yungmann, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Baltimore. Inventory remains about 43 percent lower than the July 2008 peak, according to RBI data.
“Anytime there’s any sort of a little hiccup in the market, buyers immediately start talking again … about not wanting to make a decision,” she said.