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“In a hot market, buyers will do anything to buy a home. They’ll take a home on a busy street with a bad kitchen and purple shag carpet that smells like fish. But today’s transactions are taking so much longer, and buyers are so skittish that sometimes they just lose interest and back out.”

Because many homes are going under contract multiple times, there actually is a limited supply of available homes in popular communities these days.

“There is a lack of inventory in the District and close-in markets,” Ms. Worthington said. “We have very little inventory, and we are seeing multiple offers - two to five multiple offers are common on homes that are priced correctly.”

Fewer than 19,000 unsold homes were available to buyers at the end of last month. Because many of those are short sales and foreclosures, and many of them are properties that have been relisted one or more times, the number of “normal” homes for buyers to choose from is actually quite small these days.

And if buyers remain as active as they were last year, the shortage of inventory we have today could set the stage for a 2012 real estate market when home sales, and home prices, actually rise - no matter which data you look at.