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Area's housing statistics are a mixed bag

November 23, 2008|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

TRI-STATE - If you're trying to sell your house, finding good news in the real estate market these days might seem like grasping for straws.

Apart from the modest bump in sales in Washington County, here are some "good straws" - together with some "sobering facts" - for those of you in other parts of the Tri-State.

The information is gathered from the monthly reports issued by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

Jefferson County, W.Va.

· Good straws - The market jumped 9 percent to $12.3 million in sales in September compared to $11.3 million in the same month a year ago. In all, 54 homes were sold this past September versus 41 a year ago.

And in October, sales edged up to 45 homes - three more than a year ago.

· Sobering facts - Jefferson County's market fell 13 percent in October to $9.1 million in sales, compared to a year ago.

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And the median price, which had fallen to $215,500 in September compared to $285,000 in September 2007, also plummeted in October, dropping to $172,500 versus $235,000 last October.

Frederick County, Md.

· Good straws - After falling 24 percent in August, the area's largest real estate market jumped nearly 15 percent to $59 million in sales in September, compared to $51 million in September 2007.

In all, 205 homes were sold this past September versus 152 in the same month a year ago.

· Sobering facts - Frederick County's market shrunk 23 percent last month, dropping to $47 million with 170 homes sold, compared to $61 million and 187 homes in October 2007.

And the median price, which had fallen to $262,000 in September compared to $295,500 in September 2007, also tumbled in October, sliding to $234,500 versus $287,000 last October.

Elsewhere in the Tri-State

"Good straws" are really difficult - if not, just plain not there yet - in other parts of the Tri-State area, at least in looking only at the data from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS).

But Eric Gossard, president of the Pen-Mar Regional Association of Realtors, is hopeful, especially now that the presidential election has been decided.

"I think that because a decision's been made, regardless which side you were for, and there's a path we're on, that people are going to feel more comfortable," said Gossard, a Realtor in Greencastle, Pa. "I'm not saying we're going to go around to '04, '05, but we're going to see more of a normal increase in market."

Gossard said the current market really isn't as bad as some believe.

"I've been doing this for 16 years, and the market's been a lot worse than now," he said. "It's just a little bit slower than it has been in the past couple years.

"If you buy a house today, in seven years, you ought to be able to see it increase enough (in price) that you'd be happy."

In Gossard's home territory of Franklin County, Pa., he said he and other Realtors were cheered a few months ago when the average sales price rose after several months of falling.

According to MRIS data, the average price increased nearly 7 percent to $220,639 in June compared to $206,477 in June 2007.

The average price "is really what people are interested in," more so than the size of the overall sales market, Gossard said.

On the down side, however, MRIS records show that June's median price fell. "Median prices" are used in this story because they tend to factor out any high-priced deals.

In June, the median price in Franklin County dipped 2.5 percent to $185,000 from $189,900 in June 2007, according to MRIS data. The number of homes sold fell nearly 20 percent to 121 homes, and the overall market dropped to $26 million compared to $31 million in June 2007.

The county's overall market has shrunk each month since then, with a 28 percent drop - to $16.7 million - in October alone. The median price was down 3 percent to $164,900, however, while the average price fell 12 percent to $168,761 in October compared to $193,261 in October 2007.

Gossard said an important point is that property still is a good investment and, with prices low, "it's a fantastic time to invest in real estate now."

Here's a brief summary of the latest sales data listed by MRIS for other area counties:

· Berkeley County, W.Va. - The market dropped 41 percent to $12.4 million in October compared to $21.2 million in October 2007. In all, 71 homes were sold at a median price of $160,000 last month, compared to 90 homes at a median of $212,000 in October 2007

· Morgan County, W.Va. - The market plunged 47 percent to $1.7 million in October compared to $3.2 million in October 2007. In all, 10 homes were sold at a median price of $163,750 last month compared to 18 homes at a median of $178,000 in October 2007

· Fulton County, Pa. - The market all but disappeared, sinking 91 percent to just $259,000 total sales in October compared to $2.8 million in October 2007. In all, only two homes were sold at a median price of $129,500 last month compared to 10 homes at a median of $140,750 in October 2007.

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