- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

The best thing about January’s real estate market was what wasn’t there. On the last day of January, there were 39,434 unsold homes listed in the database used by area Realtors (run by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.). That’s a drop of about 13,000 in the past eight months, and that’s good news.

Of course, I know that 39,434 is still a lot of unsold homes. The backlog of homes is slowing down the entire region’s real estate business. However, in January 2008, there were more than 45,000 unsold homes listed. The inventory only got worse from there, climbing to an all-time high of 52,000 in the spring.

To download a PDF of the chart, click here

Fortunately, the inventory fell in the second half of 2008, and that’s why we are beginning this year with a little less weight hanging around our necks.

Taken together, the lower inventory and a modest increase in sales over last year made it easier to sell a home this January than last January. Sales chances were 15 percent last month, up from 11 percent a year ago and 13 percent in December.

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 seller’s market.

Since buyers have so many homes to choose from, they are taking their time. Charles County is the slowest market. Homes that sold in January in Charles spent an average of 164 days on the market before selling. Ouch.

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

The statistics in this story reflect a metropolitan area that includes the Alexandria; and the District.

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