Home Expansion New house construction in Baltimore area keeps rising.

By Kevin Walker



The housing market in the Baltimore area continues to grow, with prices reaching pre-recession levels and new home construction taking off in many communities.

As with most major cities in the country, Baltimore and the surrounding counties have filled with people. Property costs closer to the city have increased. That’s driven much of the growth into suburban communities and satellite towns.

Those areas continue to flourish as the overall housing market in the area climbs back to values matching levels before the start of the 2008 recession. Many developers saw a big upswing in new home construction beginning last year.

“The market really started to shift in ’16 and it’s still going hot and heavy today,” says Alex Trakhtman, president of Zander Homes.
Recovery and Growth
The median selling price of a home in Baltimore reached $255,500 in April 2017, the highest for the month of April since the recession that began in April 2008. That area includes a lot of territory, ranging from the city of Baltimore to the counties of Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Anne Arundel and Carroll.

That’s about 2.7 million residents – and a lot of homes. However, many areas around Baltimore are experiencing low housing inventory, driving many home builders to communities outside the urban core.

There are, of course, exceptions. Williamsburg Homes has had great success in developing the Greenleigh community in Middle River. Billed as an “urban village of modern luxury homes,” the development is about nine miles east of downtown Baltimore.

It features lots with smaller yards but large homes. The neighborhood also offers a clubhouse, swimming pool, fitness center, yoga studio, dog park and walking trails.

Bruce Harvey, president of Williamsburg Homes, says the development is something of an aberration. Where in the past much of the growth outside the city was in planned developments, that’s not as typical today. Instead, Harvey says, much of the development involves “a little property here, a little property there.”

Many buyers, especially Millennials, are interested in living close to the city and closer to their jobs. But Harvey summed up a trend that is taking place across the country in neighborhoods near the city center.

“There’s more and more population in those areas, but property values keep going up and up and up.”

Northward Expansion
Activity north of the city has been picking up, says Trakhtman with Zander Homes, which specializes in custom luxury homes. Trakhtman says he has come across many potential buyers who simply could not find land to build a new home or available housing inventory in many areas.
Instead, he says, people are choosing “to invest in their existing location, tearing them down and building what they want right where they live.”

He named the Stevenson area as an example, saying it is “seeing a bit of a renaissance.” Many of the homes in Stevenson were built in the mid-20th century. Owners are either rebuilding larger homes or renovating what they already have.

New development is happening in the Greenspring Valley area, Trakhtman says. He says growth along that corridor north of Baltimore, including up Falls Road and as far north as Sparks, has been a great deal of activity.

Overall people are looking to build larger homes, and the “indoor/outdoor” living continues to be an attractive feature, with homeowners looking for large decks and patios.

Trakhtman saw the upswing begin in the spring of 2016 when potential clients began calling about once a week. Now, he says it’s “about once every other day.”

“In our market I think that it’s booming,” he says. “It’s doing extremely well. More people are deciding to invest in their homes.”

Robust Market
Louise Ferraras, president of the marketing and design firm 90 Decibels, has a unique vantage point on the housing market.

Ferraras works with builders all around the area, primarily smaller ones, and says her business has been “very busy.”

“And my business is in direct correlation with how my clients are doing,” she says. ““They are all enjoying a really robust market.”

Harvey stopped short of calling the recent home building trend a boom, but says the market is healthy. He noted that after the November 2016 election the market “took off strong.” However, things tapered off over the summer, but have picked up again as the calendar flipped into August.

Harvey, who has more than 30 years of experience in real estate, says the current upward swing depends on which segment of the market is considered, as well as location. Howard County continues to be a “strong” market, he says. Williamsburg Homes recently developed Maple Wood there.

Harvey sees the market getting strong in the mid-range homes, while the luxury market continues to do well but goes through more ups and downs. That’s typically the case on the high end of the housing market, he says.

While Williamsburg works with many high-end luxury homes, including those valued at more than $1 million, he says his company currently is looking at strategies to balance projects between luxury and middle income homes.

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