• Rising rents will influence more tenants to consider buying this spring.
  • Student loans remain a major barrier that will limit mid-Atlantic buyers.
  • D.C. enters spring as a seller's market, while buyers have the advantage in Baltimore.

More than half — 57 percent — of mid-Atlantic real estate professionals are optimistic that this year’s spring home sales market will outdo last year.

According to a Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS) survey of 750 professionals, the entrance of more first-time buyers is the primary reason for this optimism.

Roughly 88 percent of those surveyed expect more activity from first-timers, with a number of these newbie buyers being millennials.

Rising rents will encourage some of this demographic to buy this spring; however, 64 percent of respondents indicated that student loans are still a major barrier limiting buyers.

According to MRIS, in order for some sellers to command top price in the mid-Atlantic, it’s important they appeal to the needs of first-time buyers.

The most important home asset for this segment of buyer is an updated kitchen and bath, followed by low-maintenance features. Location within a walkable community, along with energy-efficient appliances and fixtures, represent other appealing features of a home.

Mid-Atlantic professionals also expect steady home price gains, an increase in qualified buyers and upcoming rate increases to positively impact existing home sales activity during the spring.

Roughly 53 percent of respondents believe the two upcoming interest rate increases by the Fed will encourage homebuyers to move more quickly to purchase homes this year.

Mid-Atlantic market conditions

Two of the mid-Atlantic’s largest markets, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, are entering spring with differing market conditions.

In the district it appears to be a seller’s market, while it’s a time for buyers in Baltimore.

Existing homes that sold in the district last month traded at 99 percent of their original listing price, with a number of them selling in less than 20 days, according to a report from RealEstate Business Intelligence.

The demand for housing pushed existing sales activity up four percent on a year-over-year basis, with month-over-month pending sales activity up 15.9 percent.

In Baltimore, homes sold in February at 87.45 percent of their original listing price.

One reason buyers have more power — the median time on the market for a listed home has risen to 72 days.

More bargaining power combined with affordable home prices equated to more sales last month, as activity rose in the city by nearly 20 percent on a year-over-year basis. Additionally, pending sales were up by nearly 14 percent.

Email Erik Pisor

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