- - Thursday, December 8, 2011

Unlike many parts of the country, the Washington area has had a pretty good year for its housing market. Sales are up 16 percent, and the inventory of unsold homes is down 15 percent. That means buyers are competing more these days, and that’s helping home values.

But what about 2012? What will next year be like?

“I expect we’ll experience our fifth year of a very slow recovery,” said David Rathgeber of Your Friend in Real Estate in Arlington. “I think we’ll see more of what we saw in 2010 and 2011, with sales volume strongest during the first six months. The second half of the year is usually less active.

“Of course, sales volume doesn’t really affect buyers and sellers, it affects agents. What matters to buyers and sellers is balance.”


Balance between sales and inventory is what Mr. Rathgeber is referencing. As the bottom chart shows, sales have been going up and inventory has been falling for a few years. That’s the combination any real estate market needs to recover.

“Town homes, followed by condos, have been the most popular type of home with buyers, and that will likely continue,” Mr. Rathgeber said. “So there will be a tighter supply of those kinds of homes. And I expect Northern Virginia will lead the rest of the area again in 2012.”

The Virginia market has been stronger for several years, but I anticipate continued improvements in Maryland next year. If you look at the January-October sales charts for Maryland and Virginia, you can see the two sides of the Potomac have been almost the same this year. That’s a big change. Just look at 2008, when Virginia outsold Maryland by 13,000 homes.

Maryland’s housing market has improved steadily since then, even outselling Virginia by a bit this year.

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