- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2006

If last year’s real estate market made buying a home seem too difficult, you might want to give it a shot now.

At the end of March, there were nearly 35,000 homes on the market for buyers to choose from. In March 2005, there were only 10,700 homes for sale, and they sold so quickly that many buyers gave up out of frustration.

Now, however, the Washington metropolitan area has been flooded with for-sale signs, and homes are lingering on the market for two or three months.

Despite these advantages to buyers, sellers aren’t suffering this year. Even though last month’s inventory was the highest we have seen since 1998, sales in 1998 were a third lower than they are today. So this is still a stronger sales market than we had eight years ago.

What we really have right now is a balanced market. In 1998, the high inventory and the slow sales meant buyers had all the advantages over sellers. Not so today. Sure, there are a lot of homes on the market, and they are selling two or three times more slowly than they did a year ago.

But they are selling. So it’s a better market for buyers than it has been in years, and it is still a good market for sellers.

Of course, this varies from county to county. Prince George’s County is still a strong seller’s market, with the highest sales chances in the region.

Sales chances are my way of measuring 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 — a figure below 20 percent indicates a buyer’s market. Higher figures mean we’re in a balanced market or a seller’s market.

Most of the Maryland markets had sales chances above 30 percent last month, meaning they are all seller’s markets, too. But they are so much slower than they were last year that some sellers may not believe the market favors them today.

And in Virginia, it doesn’t. Just about the entire Virginia side of the area is either in a buyer’s market or a balanced market. Arlington was the only county to break 30 percent last month, while Loudoun’s sales chances were the lowest in the region at 16.

B 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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