- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

With barely 22,000 sales of existing homes in the first quarter, 2007 has not begun with gusto.

The Washington area hasn’t seen a first quarter this slow since 2000. Sales for the first three months of this year were down 13 percent compared to 2006.

Remember that the market had already begun to slow down early in 2006, so we are no longer comparing today’s sales with the hot seller’s market that existed prior to the fall of 2005.

I would also like to point out that the 13 percent drop in regional sales disguises some more dramatic drops in individual counties.

First-quarter sales were down 31 percent in Prince William County and 30 percent in Prince George’s County. Sales fell by more than 20 percent in Frederick and Spotsylvania.

But, sales were up 3 percent in the District and 2 percent in Howard County. These modest increases have the effect of tempering the more severe declines when you look at regional statistics.

Other stats are equally mixed as you look around the area. March prices were down in Fairfax, flat in Arlington and up in Alexandria.

Prices were up slightly in Montgomery and Prince George’s, but sales chances fell significantly compared to March 2006.

One statistic that is up throughout the region is time on the market. It takes much, much longer to sell a home than it did two years ago. The number of sales has fallen, but the number of homes up for sale has absolutely exploded.

Sellers today need to recognize that in many jurisdictions the number of homes on the market is four times higher than it was two years ago.

For instance, on March 31, 2005, in Fairfax County only 1,534 homes were available to buyers. On the last day of March 2007, buyers had 6,183 homes to choose from.

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

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