- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Home values in Maryland are rising at the fastest rate in more than a dozen years, state officials said.

The surge is being led by high prices for big, expensive homes — especially in waterfront areas — with Worcester, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties leading the state. Values rose 18.5 percent in Worcester County, 17.3 percent in Montgomery County and 16.3 percent in Anne Arundel County.

In contrast, economically depressed Allegany County showed the smallest increase, at 3.5 percent.

Baltimore and Baltimore County showed increases at levels just over half the state average. That’s partly because the areas inspected this year included older and lower-income neighborhoods along with some of the hottest markets.

Baltimore’s faster-growing suburbs tended to do better. In addition to the 16.3 percent rise in Anne Arundel County, values rose 13.1 percent in Howard, 12 percent in Carroll and 11.2 percent in Frederick. Harford County, where the rural north was assessed, increased 8.5 percent.

Maryland assesses one-third of the properties in each of its 24 jurisdictions each year and taxes on the new values are phased in over a three-year period.

The rising values also have helped the economy as homeowners refinanced their mortgages this year to take advantage of lower interest rates.

Although home sales may slow a bit in 2004, the trend toward higher values is expected to continue.

“The rental market now is insane,” said Cindy Ariosa, president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

She said few people want to spend what could be a mortgage payment on high rents each month.

“We’re hiring real estate agents like there’s no tomorrow,” said Miss Ariosa, a vice president and regional manager of Long & Foster.

Even lower-priced homes are becoming more expensive, though commercial property is lagging, said C. John Sullivan Jr., director of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Despite the sharply higher values, state officials don’t expect a repeat of taxpayer protests that erupted in 1990, when values increased 14 percent statewide, Mr. Sullivan said.

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