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Charting the market: Inventory drop good for sellers

- - Thursday, December 20, 2012

Although sales fell 18 percent from October to November, last month still was a solid month for area home sellers.

Washington-area home sales always drop in November and December. They are the slowest sales months of every year. This, however, doesn't necessarily mean they are the worst months in which to sell.

Sales activity is not your only concern when you are trying to sell a home. A large number of sales won't help you if the backlog of unsold homes is enormous.

That was the situation sellers faced after the housing boom went bust and the market was flooded with homes for sale. Buyer activity hit bottom in 2007 and then began to improve, yet sellers still struggled because they faced competition from thousands of other sellers.

Now, the inventory is much lower. That's why I can say November was a good month for sellers -- even though it had the fewest sales of the year. November also saw the inventory of unsold homes drop to its lowest point of the year.

Taken together, November's sales and inventory figures result in a sales chance percentage of 39. As you can see on the bottom chart, that compares well with the rest of 2012. As a whole, this has been the best year for area sellers since 2005.

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.

Although overall chances were 39 percent in the Washington region, you can see chances are quite a bit lower in some counties. Anne Arundel and Charles continue to be less favorable to sellers, which is why homes there take more than three months to sell.

Homes sell much more quickly in Montgomery, the District and Northern Virginia because those communities have more buyers looking at a relatively small number of available properties.

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