- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2006

November was the slowest sales month of year, which may not surprise area sellers.

Only 6,435 existing homes were sold last month in the Washington metropolitan area — a decline of 18 percent compared to last November.

Frustrated sellers who have had their homes on their market didn’t have much to cheer them last month. My neighbor, for instance, has had his home on the market since the summer. He took it off recently, put thousands of dollars into sprucing it up, and had an open house.

Still nothing.

Of course, it’s important to remember that November is always a slow sales month. Only December sees fewer sales than November does.

Sellers won’t see a real improvement in the market until February or March. It depends in some part on February’s weather.

One portion of the metropolitan area did see improvement last month, however. Curiously, sales in Northern Virginia were higher in November than in October, while sales fell everywhere else.

Why would this be, especially considering that during the first 10 months of the year Northern Virginia was a weaker market than most of Maryland?

Remember that for much of the past decade, the most competitive markets in the region were always Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria. Buyers learned that it was harder to buy in Northern Virginia than anywhere else because inventory was low and homes sold quickly.

That level of competition, however, also meant that home prices rose more quickly in Northern Virginia.

And that is what caused the dramatic change we saw in the past two years, when Prince George’s County seized the title of most competitive marketplace, and sales chances in Northern Virginia collapsed.

Now that prices have fallen, however, we might be seeing the first signs that Northern Virginia is regaining popularity among home buyers. In fact, Arlington County was the most competitive market in the region last month, just barely edging out Prince George’s, which had held the title without interruption for nearly two years.

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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