Charting the Market: November sales below a year ago

November sales were 1 percent lower than last November in the Washington metro area. It was the first time all year that sales fell behind last year’s pace. Still, total sales for the first 11 months of 2012 were up 5 percent compared with last year.

Why was November a little slower than last year? I’m not sure there is a way to prove it, but I suspect two things — the general election and the fiscal cliff.

Real estate is a huge investment, especially around here. Uncertainty about the future definitely can dampen buyer enthusiasm: What will the election results mean for local employment and the national economy? What about that fiscal cliff? Will a deal be reached before the economic effects become worse?

Despite these questions, nearly 6,100 buyers signed contracts on area homes in November. Plus, sales actually increased a bit in Maryland, because counties including Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Charles are doing well this year.

I’m fairly sure affordability has something to do with that. Sales began to recover earlier on the Virginia side of the metro area, which caused prices there to rebound when Maryland’s still were falling. As a result, price-conscious buyers now can find a lot of attractive homes in Maryland. More interested buyers mean more sales.

I imagine we will end this year about 5 percent ahead of last year’s sales, once December sales are added in. December is always the slowest month of the year, so the year’s total sales figure won’t be affected greatly by December sales.

In the coming weeks I will be writing more about the 2012 market as a whole. For now, I can say it is shaping up to be the best sales year for Maryland since 2006.

Virginia, on the other hand, had a great year in 2009 and hasn’t matched it since that time. Prices had something to do with it, once again. Virginia prices bottomed out in 2008, attracting lots of buyers. But because prices continued to slide in Maryland after 2008, some buyers have turned their attention in that direction.

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