- - Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sellers in September found that fall is not the best time to sell a home. It wasn’t terrible, and it was the most active September since 2005, but it was quite different from the busy spring market.

A total of 6,203 existing homes were sold last month in the Washington metro area. That’s nearly 800 fewer than we saw sold in August. This is not a big deal in itself — home sales always cool down in the fall and winter.

The other significant statistic is the inventory of unsold homes. On Sept. 30 there were 26,401 unsold homes in the Realtors’ database managed by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems. That was a slight increase over August’s inventory.

Because sales went down a bit and inventory rose a tad, buyers didn’t have to compete as much as they did in August. There simply were fewer buyers looking at a larger supply of homes.

As a result, sales chances fell to 23 percent, the lowest they have been since December 2010.

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.

The District, at the core of the metro area, also posted a sales chance figure of 23 percent last month. But as you look around Maryland and Virginia, you find that buyer competition varies widely.

Anne Arundel County was the least competitive market around, with sales chances of just 13 percent. That definitely indicates a buyer’s market, where sellers are at a disadvantage. It’s also the reason homes sold there in September spent an average of 116 days on the market — the longest in the area.

Arlington County was twice as competitive as Anne Arundel, with chances of 26 percent and homes selling in an average of 64 days.

Prince William County continues to be the hottest market around, where sellers have the edge over buyers in negotiations. That’s because chances in Prince William were 35 percent in September, with homes selling in about 1½ months on average and median home prices 6 percent higher than in September 2010.

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