- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

The toughest thing about selling a home this year has been all the other people trying to sell their homes. However, a glimmer of hope appeared in July in Virginia.

During the first half of 2006, 106,000 homes were listed for sale in the Washington metropolitan area. That was an increase of 34 percent over 2005, when just 79,000 homes were listed from January through June. In March alone, there were nearly 8,000 more listings than in March of last year.

To make matters worse, home sales were down 23 percent in the first half of the year. So, not only were sellers dealing with 15,000 fewer sales, they were facing 23,000 more competitors than last year.

High numbers of listings slow the market because buyers don’t feel rushed to make a decision. This time gives them more negotiating room with sellers.

These factors typically result in home prices leveling out or even dropping because buyers don’t have to outbid one another to win the home of their choice. This is exactly what we have seen this year.

Fortunately, things seemed to change a bit in Virginia in July. New listings of existing homes were down 12 percent in July in Virginia, while listings in Maryland were up 6 percent.

Why the difference?

Mostly likely it is because the Virginia side of the Potomac has been hit harder by this year’s slowdown. Sales slowed more in Virginia, and home values there faltered more, too.

Fortunately, Virginia homeowners seem to have responded to these changes by listing fewer homes in July. Listings were down 15 percent in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. That same month in Maryland, listings were up 19 percent in Howard County and 13 percent in Charles County.

If this continues, it will help Virginia sellers by reducing the amount of competition they face. For now, though, there is a lot of surplus inventory — enough that it made July the slowest sales month in nine years.

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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