- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

Despite a significant drop in the backlog of unsold inventory, it was a little harder to sell a home in October than in September.

The inventory of homes for sale fell to 45,716 last month — the lowest it has been since January. That’s good news for home sellers, who have faced stiff competition since the fall of 2005.

Although the inventory dropped, sales chances were lower in October because the number of sales also fell. About 6,200 existing homes were sold last month in the Washington metropolitan area. While that was 18 percent higher than October 2007 sales, it was 11 percent lower than September’s sales.

As a result, sales chances were 13 percent in October compared to 15 percent in July, August and September.

Sales chances are calculated by dividing a month’s sales figures by the inventory on the last day of the month, resulting in a percentage. A figure below 20 percent indicates a buyer’s market. Higher figures mean we’re in a balanced market or a seller’s market.

Still, October was a strange month. Bad news about the economy had people worrying more than shopping for homes. The presidential election also may have caused some buyers to sit on their hands.

November sales probably will be even lower than October’s were because the last two months of the year are always the slowest months for home sales.

Now, we can turn our attention to next year. While some statistics indicate that the worst of the real estate slowdown might be behind us, there remains a lot of uncertainty about the credit market and the economy.

I’m eager to see what will happen in the first quarter of 2009. That’s when home sales usually pick up. If the Washington housing market is going to rebound anytime soon, we won’t see convincing evidence of it until about February or March.

- 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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