This week’s National Association of Realtors press release (nar.realtor) sends mixed signals about the housing market. Reports of sluggish home sales and slowing home price appreciation is not what you would expect when the spring market should be humming along. But then again, it may be a vital sign of a healthy market in motion.
First, let’s talk about home sale prices. The NAR’s report on metro home prices and affordability indicate that the average home sale price for the first quarter of the year was $254,800. This is a 3.9 percent increase compared to the same time last year. Average home sale prices in the Baltimore metro area were slightly higher than the rest of nation at $275,300. Not surprisingly, Washington metro prices were significantly higher at $420,000 (a 6.5 percent increase from the same time last year).
Affordability is always a concern in high cost markets, such as our metro area. So, how much income do you need to qualify for a home? The National Association of Realtors Qualifying Income report indicates the average qualifying income for a five percent down conventional mortgage is $60,143 nationwide. The average qualifying income in the Baltimore metro area is slightly higher at $64,982. However, because of significantly higher home sale prices, the average qualifying income in the Washington metro area is $99,137.
The neighboring Baltimore and Washington metro areas highlight home pricing extremes in competing markets. Many home buyers who work in the Washington metro area are opting for longer commutes to make homeownership affordable. Others are opting for alternative work to not only lower their housing cost, but eliminate the commute as well. Commenting on affordability, NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun stated, “There are vast home price differences among metro markets. The condition of extremely high home prices may not be sustainable in light of many alternative metro markets that are much more affordable. Therefore, a shift in job search and residential relocations into more affordable regions of the country is likely in the future.”
Although home sale prices continue to climb, the national home sale picture is another story. The 1.2 percent increase in spring home sales compared to winter sales should be expected. However, the 5.4 percent decrease from last spring is a disappointment. According to MarketStats by ShowingTime (getsmartcharts.com), the number of homes sold in the Mid-Atlantic region decreased 4.77 percent year-to-date. There was a larger decline in Montgomery County, where there was a 7.25 percent decrease in home sales year-to-date!
Days-on-market is another fundamental indicator of the housing market. And, like home prices and units sold, days-on-market can vary depending on the local market. Homes in the Mid-Atlantic region are taking a bit longer to sell, as days-on-market increased 7.04 percent to 76 days. However, houses in Montgomery County are selling quicker, where days-on-market decreased about 13 percent to 65 days.
The latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index is almost spot on with the NAR, indicating a four percent increase in home sale prices nationwide. David M. Blitzer, managing director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, provides analysis housing market data. He stated that that home sale prices gains have been slowing down until recently. And although mortgage rates are lower, home sales have “drifted down” from their peak during February 2018. Even new home sales and residential investment have shown weakness since last year.
Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX Success in Potomac, MD. You can access more information at DanKrell.com