- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The sometimes difficult but always interesting real estate year of 2006 is now behind us. The year ended with 5,853 existing-home sales, making it the slowest December since 2000.

Home prices were down in most parts of the Washington metropolitan area, but they were up in Alexandria, Prince George’s and Howard.

Sellers finally pulled back in a significant way last month. Less than 7,000 homes were put up for sale in December, half as many as we saw in October.

Total sales for December were down 11 percent compared to 2005, but several jurisdictions actually did better than last December. Sales in the District were up 11 percent compared to December 2005, although year-end totals for the District were down 15 percent compared to 2005. Still, that was one of the smallest drops in the region.

Sales in Montgomery and Howard counties were also higher.

Arlington County, however, made the most dramatic recovery at the end of 2006. Even though it has been one of the region’s best-selling jurisdictions for years, sales in Arlington fell dramatically when the market cooled off. The number of homes for sale shot up so much that sales chances there were lower than in many Maryland jurisdictions — something we’d never seen before.

That lack of demand and flood of supply caused home prices to fall in Arlington during the last half of 2005, and they fell more than almost anywhere else.

Although Arlington remains the region’s most-expensive jurisdiction, last year’s price drop may explain why it was the region’s most competitive market in December. Sales chances there hit 26 percent last month.

Dividing sales figures for the month by the inventory on the last day of the month results in a percentage, which I call “sales chances.” A figure below 20 percent indicates a buyer’s market. Higher figures mean we’re in a balanced market or a seller’s market.

Sales chances for the metropolitan area were 17 percent last month, a slight rise from November’s 16 percent.

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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