- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2008

You know, of course, that home prices have been falling. Everyone wants to know when they will stop falling and even begin to rise again.

I don’t have an answer, but that doesn’t stop us from checking the data to see if there’s anything interesting to be found.

Today’s data gives you median sales prices for January, April and July, along with the percentage of increase or decrease when compared to the same month in 2007. July’s median sales prices were lower than July 2007 almost everywhere. Only Baltimore City posted a price increase in July.

Generally, the huge surplus of unsold homes is keeping prices down because home buyers can often dictate terms to sellers these days. If one seller doesn’t like what’s offered, buyers can move on to another of the 50,000 available homes out there.

In areas where the surplus is unusually large, like Prince William County, prices have fallen more. Those homes are so inexpensive that sales have rebounded.

Prices have actually risen since January in Arlington, two of the region’s most competitive markets. Yet prices there are lower than they were a year ago.

Don’t draw too many conclusions from this monthly data. Monthly data is very susceptible to fluctuations caused by the sale of a few very expensive or very inexpensive homes.

In the District, prices went up $10,000 from January to April, then down $16,000 by July. Did homes in the city really rise and then fall in value this year? I don’t think so; it’s just that the homes sold in April were different homes from those sold in July. These numbers don’t track the values of individual properties, only the ones that happened to sell in a given month. Home-price data fluctuates monthly, making 12-month data preferable for serious analysis.

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

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