- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2006

Existing home sales were down 16 percent in December, with a total of 6,559 sales in the Washington area. Historically speaking, that’s not a low figure. But it is quite a drop when compared to the record-setting market we saw in 2004.

“We found that sales in December were down significantly,” says Al Plisko, manager of Better Homes Realty in McLean. “There was a real hesitancy on the part of buyers — especially move-up buyers who were considering a move into a larger home. They worried that they wouldn’t be able to sell their current home.”

Until a few months ago, that was never a concern. Selling your home was the easy part of the equation, while buying was the challenge. Now, that has completely reversed.

“In my Vienna neighborhood, some sellers just accepted a contract contingent on the sale of the buyer’s home,” Mr. Plisko says. “Until a few months ago you, would have been laughed at if you put such a contingency in your offer.”

However, not every seller has noticed the recent change in market dynamics.

“Despite all the publicity to the contrary, some sellers still think they can dictate terms to the buyer,” he says. “Not in today’s balanced market — sellers are no longer top dog.”

Because of this shift, today’s sellers shouldn’t be surprised to receive offers below their asking price. And that will cause home prices to remain more stable than they had been in recent years.

In fact, the high home prices of 2005 probably contributed to the recent market slowdown. But the run-up in prices happened so quickly that the shock of it still hasn’t set in for everyone.

“A friend of mine recently told me,” Mr. Plisko says, “‘I always dreamed that someday I would live in a million-dollar home. I never imagined it would be the same home I’ve always lived in.’”

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail (csicks@gmail.com).

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