- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

December sales chances were 77 percent, the highest on record for that month. A record number of sales and the rapidity of sales meant inventory hit a record low. Never has December seen such a competitive market.

Sales chances, by the way, are a measurement of the level of competition in the real estate market. Dividing sales figures for the month by the inventory on the last day of the month results in a percentage figure. Sales chances below 20 percent indicate a buyer’s market. Higher figures mean we’re in a seller’s market.

So 2004 broke yet another record and set an almost unbeatable pace. What does it mean for 2005?

Since 1997, the January market has always been more competitive than December’s. Because 2004 closed with sales-chance figures at 77 percent, don’t be surprised if chances exceed 80 percent this month.

After January, the market only gets busier month after month, until it peaks in March, April or May. Therefore, this year appears likely to break many of the records set last year.

Writing about sales chances of 77 or 80 percent still feels rather odd. When I started writing this column in 1993, sales chances peaked at 14 percent. They actually fell from there. In 1996, they never got above 12 percent.

That was a true buyer’s market, and it felt normal.

That’s just how the market was back then. You put your home on the market, and if a few couples showed up at the open house, you were happy. If you received one offer in the first 30 days, that was considered good.

If you had a contract on the property in fewer than 90 days, that was good, too. Selling in fewer than 60 days would be considered quite good.

That sounds unbelievable now. Yet those days will return eventually.

For now, however, it’s the sellers who rule the roost.

Chris Sicks

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail (csicks@gmail.com). The statistics in this story reflect a metropolitan area that includes the Maryland counties of Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Howard, Charles and Frederick; the Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania and Stafford; the city of Alexandria; and the District.

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