Home Sales Plunged After Cyberattack Hit Baltimore Systems

What could have been a busy month for real estate was hampered by the cyberattack that downed city systems, including the ones needed to complete property transactions. Current forecasts show room for recovery in June.

by Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun / June 12, 2019
Shutterstock/1000Photography

(TNS) — Home sales in Baltimore plunged in May amid the recent ransomware attack on city government computers, including those essential for completing real estate transactions.

The drop in city sales in what is often one of the busier months for home sales contributed to yet another monthly decline in closed sales throughout the Baltimore region. Overall the number of closed sales dipped 1.6 percent to 3,787 in May.

In the city, recorded sales were down more than 18 percent last month, falling to 698, according to data provided by MarketStats by ShowingTime based on listing activity from Bright MLS.

It took two weeks for city and real estate officials to develop a manual workaround to check for liens and record deeds after the May 7 attack crippled city systems, temporarily bottling up home sales.

The sales, however, should recover and then some in June. Pending sales in the city rose 11 percent.

“Although the May ransomware attacks impacted the Baltimore real estate market, the effects could have been much worse,” said Andrew Strauch, vice president at Bright MLS. “June sales should be higher than a year ago as delayed transactions are processed.”

May’s regional decline in recorded home sales marked the ninth consecutive month of such declines.

But last month’s decline could be a ransomware-related anomaly. Not counting the city, overall sales rose nearly 3.2 percent in the five counties around Baltimore and pending sales rose across the region.

New listings continued to rise in May for the third consecutive month, a reversal of a decade-long decline in homes on the market. That decline in inventory had led to an increase in sales prices, with the Baltimore metro area hitting a median price of $293,000 in May, a record for the decade.

Howard County had the highest prices in the region, with a median sales price in May of $420,000, flat from a year ago. Baltimore City had the least expensive homes with a median price of $175,000, up 5.3% from last year.

The median price in Carroll was $330,000, up 5.6%. In Anne Arundel, it was $359,900, up +5.2%; in Baltimore County it was $250,000; up 5%; and in Harford it was $270,000, flat from a year ago.

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