Housing Market Slowly Reviving

by Anirban Basu 24. October 2012

Home Sales Prices on the Rise in Maryland


A recent survey indicates that America’s optimism regarding the housing market’s recovery has improved significantly. According to Fannie Mae’s September 2012 National Housing Survey, a monthly poll of 1,000 homeowners and renters, more respondents expect home prices to rise in the next year (37 percent) and the share anticipating declining home prices is down to 11 percent. It is worth noting that such attitudes tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. People are generally willing to pay more for an asset that they expect to appreciate in value. Importantly, 19 percent of those surveyed say now is a good time to sell, the highest level since the survey began in June 2010. More buyers and sellers translates into a more active market, and that’s good for realtors, title companies and of course, the buyers and sellers themselves.

Already, that renewed confidence working in conjunction with record low or near-record low mortgage rates is having an impact. According to the National Association of Realtors, national existing home sales rose 7.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million in August, up from 4.47 million in July. The number of existing home sales is now 9.3 percent higher than year-ago levels. The national median existing home price for all housing types was $187,400 in August, up 9.5 percent from one year ago.

Maryland’s housing market is also improving. According to data supplied by MRIS and the Coastal Association of Realtors, home sales rose 3.5 percent in July on a year-over-year basis, 9.6 percent in August and 6.1 percent in September. Average and median prices have expanded in Maryland for seven consecutive months through September. Statewide, average sales prices were up 6.1 percent since September 2011 while median prices increased 6.8 percent.

Looking Ahead


Many economists believe that the housing market bottomed toward the end of 2011. This year has been one of improvement, as low mortgage rates, ongoing job creation and growing confidence have ushered forth welcome market dynamics. Unit sales and prices are up and forward looking indicators are also promising. Pending sales in Maryland were up on a year-over-year basis in both August and September. Statewide, pending units were up from 4,986 in September 2011 to 5,609 in September 2012, an improvement of 12 percent. Increasingly, realtors can credibly claim that the best time to buy is now and that if prospective buyers wait too long, they may miss out on highly advantageous mortgage rates and will end up paying more for the dream.

They may also have fewer choices from which to select. The active inventory of unsold homes in Maryland continues to decline. In September 2011, months of inventory stood at 8.5 months. One year later, inventory had dropped to 6 months, which means that market equilibrium has been achieved at last. Presently, seven Maryland jurisdictions have months of inventory below this level. Based on pending sales, inventory is likely to continue to fall, increasing prospects for additional home price appreciation.

 

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City's economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.

Housing Market Appears to be in Sustained Recovery

by Anirban Basu 19. July 2012
Despite Braking Economy, Housing Moves Ahead

After re-accelerating late last year and during the initial months of 2012, the pace of economic growth and job creation has slowed more recently. In June, national employment expanded by just 80,000 jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. June represented the third consecutive month during which national job creation was well below 100,000 jobs. During the first three months of the year, the nation's average monthly employment gain was 226,000 jobs. During last year's fourth quarter, the nation's output expanded at a 3 percent annualized pace, but during the first half of 2012, the nation's economy expanded at a less than 2 percent pace.

Maryland has not been immune to the slowdown. Unemployment in Maryland has increased for a third consecutive month in May (6.8%) and the state has been losing jobs. Whether Maryland's economy will continue to decelerate in unclear. Also unclear is whether or not recently observed housing market momentum can persist in the face of broader macroeconomic weakness.

A recent Wall Street Journal article simply proclaimed that the "housing market has turned." Nationally, nearly 10 percent more existing homes were sold in May than in the same month one year earlier. Builders began work on 26 percent more single-family homes in May 2012 than a year earlier and the stock of unsold newly built homes is back to 2005 levels. A recent survey of 47 forecasters found that 44 believed that the housing market has reached its bottom.

Maryland has been participating in housing's recent recovery, but there are indications that the pace of recovery has slowed. Home sales statewide increased 10.5 percent in May on a year-over-year basis. But in June, the year-over-year was just 1.7 percent, with 11 Maryland jurisdictions reporting year-over-year sales gains. Many of the observed gains in unit sales, though certainly not all, took place among core metropolitan area jurisdictions. This is likely a reflection of the influence of first-time buyers, who have been setting off cascading sales dynamics. By contrast, in counties with less dense job markets and first-time buyer influence, sales growth has been less consistent.

Price dynamics remain positive in Maryland. In June, average price was up 6.7 percent on an annual basis while median price was up 8.5 percent. Sixteen jurisdictions experienced year-over-year increases in average sales prices and 19 reported increases in median sales prices in June. Certain jurisdictions continue to experience falling home prices, however, including a number of Eastern Shore jurisdictions: Dorchester County (average price declined 55.8%; median price up 0.1%), Kent County (average price slipped 18.8%; median price fell 25.9%), Somerset County (average price dipped 9.4%; median price fell 18.9%), and Worcester County (average price slid 14.4%; median price decreased 17.2%).

Looking Ahead

Despite growing confidence among economists, there are reasons to remain nervous about the housing industry. Consumer confidence is declining again and job growth slowed dramatically during the second quarter relative to the first both nationally and in Maryland. The next several months should be months of progress, however. Pending sales in Maryland were up on a year-over-year basis in both May (+375 units) and June (+282 units). In June 2011, Maryland's supply of housing inventory stood at 7 months. A year later, inventory had declined to 5.1 months - a level consistent with rising home prices and greater urgency among prospective buyers.

 

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City's economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.

Maryland's Economy Outperforms Expectations

by Anirban Basu 13. April 2012
Anirban Basu
Anirban Basu, Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc.

 

Job creation has picked up in Maryland. After stumbling for much of the previous summer, recent months have been very positive from a job growth perspective.  The working hypothesis is that this represents economic multiplier effects related to base realignment activities at Fort George G. Meade in Anne Arundel County and at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.

Between February 2011 and February 2012, employment in the Free State increased 1.9 percent or by 47,000 jobs according to establishment survey data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That ranks the state seventh in the nation with respect to year-over-year percentage job growth, a significant improvement from a particular period last year when Maryland ranked dead last (May 2010 v. May 2011).  Leading growth sectors include construction (+5.0%), education and health services (+4.2%), professional and business services (+3.1%) and leisure and hospitality (+2.9%).  Base realignment has helped to support job growth in a number of key business segments, including professional services and construction.

State-by-State Job Growth

Maryland's January 2012 unemployment rate represented the lowest rate in three years.  The state's jobless rate dropped to 6.5 percent in January, almost 2 full percentage points below the national average of 8.3 percent for that month (now 8.2 percent; March 2012).

Other sources of information are similarly sanguine.  A recent Maryland Survey of Business Activity conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond indicates that business activity increased at a solid pace in March with the general business activity index jumping to 26 from 8 – the highest reading since April 2011.  Roughly 50 percent of respondents in the March survey expect business conditions and sales revenue to improve over the next six months.

Despite the emergence of optimism, headwinds remain.  As of this writing, U.S. equity markets are in retreat and long-term interest rates are falling, an indication of ongoing concern regarding the economic outlook.  The consensus forecast is for roughly 2 percent growth in America in 2012, with the implication being that the economic recovery remains fragile.

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Mr. Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City’s economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.

 



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