Local real estate a seller's market

A for sale sign sits in front of a home Friday on Washington Street in Cumberland. The number of houses on the market in Allegany County has shrunk dramatically in recent months, from around 500 to 600 to in the low 200s.

CUMBERLAND — The number of houses on the market in Allegany County has shrunk dramatically in recent months, from about 500 to 600 to the low 200s. Add onto that paltry interest rates of about 3%, and the county housing market is in an environment where sellers profit and potential buyers remain plentiful.

“Everybody wants to buy a house because you can get so much more for your money, but there is nothing to pick from,” said Melanie Dimaio, a real estate agent with Long & Foster, who has spent the last several months working long shifts showing houses. “Great time to sell, terrible time to buy.”

The simple supply and demand economics of it, if the supply goes down and the demand remains the same, the price goes up.

In June, there were just 231 houses for sale in the county, which compared to last year’s 385, is a near 40% decrease in inventory, said Dimaio. Meanwhile, the median sales price was $121,000, a 17% increase from a year ago.

The market inventory level is at the lowest it’s been in about 15 years, said Dennis Murray, a real estate agent with Century 21, who’s worked in the business for 26 years. He estimated the last time he had seen it this low was 2006.

“People are just buying, the market time has been two, three, four days,” Murray said. “My opinion, that doesn’t mean it is what it is. I think a lot of people thought, ‘Well, if I’m going to be quarantined, I want my own house.’

“Out of those 200-plus houses, probably 50, 60% of them are under $110,000. Good markets, what we call bread and butter markets, between $120,000 and $160,000, that’s what everybody pretty much buys,” he said.

The last week of July, in the price range from $50,000 to $100,000, there were 59 houses available and 37 under contract; from $100,000 to $150,000, 44 houses were active and 35 were under contract; from $150,000 to $200,000, 18 active and 22 under contract; from $200,000 to $250,000, 17 active and nine under contract; from $250,000 to $300,000, 15 active and seven under contract; and from $300,000 and up, 15 active and six under contract.

“We don’t get a whole lot of buyers over $400,000 in general, so those numbers don’t bother me as much, but the $200,000 to $250,000 is sad,” said Dimaio. “There’s only 3.1 months of supply in Allegany County.”

“Your first house is your easiest house to buy — after that, you have to sell one to buy one,” she said of what people who would like to buy, but have to sell first, are now experiencing with such short turnarounds. “I sold a house and never even put a sign in the yard. That’s rare.”

One other potential reason for the desire to buy to remain high despite the market shrinking is the flight of people looking to get away from the cramped living of city life, looking for areas with more outdoor space and working from home.

“We get a lot of our business from out of town. We see it even more now because people are looking at getting out, and if you look at Maryland, Western Maryland is probably as safe as you can find,” said Becky McClarran, of the Cumberland public relations firm McClarran and Williams. “I think people are realizing they can work from their homes. They don’t have to live in the city. They can appreciate the lifestyle that a place like Cumberland or Allegany County has — and if you like to hike and bike and be outdoors and enjoy the mountains, what better place to come to than Western Maryland?”

While businesses as a whole continue to struggle with the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic, McClarran said she has seen an increased appreciation for supporting local businesses rather than box stores, which might also be adding to the appeal of Cumberland and the county as a place to move.

Follow staff writer Brandon Glass on Twitter @Bglass13.

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