Charting the market: Half-year results best in 6 years

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Sales of existing homes were up by just 1 percent in June, but that doesn’t change the fact that 2012 has been the best sales year since 2006. Total sales for the first half of 2012 were 5 percent higher than in 2011.

Contracts were signed on 8,350 homes in the Washington region in June. That’s a little better than June 2011 but a drop of 8 percent compared to May 2012.

Not to fear — June is always a slower month than May. Each year, sales are best in March, April and May. For a variety of reasons, sales taper off in the summer, level off in the fall and drop off rather sharply in the winter.

So we already have experienced the busiest sales period we will see this year. And, as always, different jurisdictions have had different experiences.

You can see in today’s charts that sales were good in Anne Arundel County last month — up 25 percent over last June. Total sales for Anne Arundel were up 15 percent from January through June.

Two other counties did even better this year: Arlington saw sales rise 18 percent in the first half of the year, while sales in Howard County shot up 20 percent.

Although June’s sales were off a bit in Prince George’s County, total sales are up 3 percent there this year. Montgomery also is up 3 percent so far this year.

The increase in sales is half the story. We also have experienced a sharp drop in the inventory of unsold homes. June’s home shoppers had 28 percent fewer homes to look at than buyers did a year earlier.

That causes buyers to compete with one another, and that’s what pushes up prices. With sales improving and inventory at its lowest level in seven years, the Washington market is climbing out of the real estate meltdown.

For more on the relationship between sales and inventory, check out next week’s column.

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