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Charting the market: For sellers, Arlington is happy place

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If you are selling a home in Northern Virginia, you are more of a rarity than you might imagine.

Just 0.5 percent of all the homes in Arlington and Alexandria were on the market at the end of November, compared to 1.4 percent in nearby Loudoun County and 3 percent in parts of Maryland.

Why is this interesting, you may ask? Because when a very small percentage of the homes in a popular community like Arlington are available to buyers, the buyers compete with one another, and that pushes up home prices.

So the unsold inventory of various jurisdictions in the Washington area tells you a lot about the competitiveness of each area and where prices might go in 2012.

When you have a backlog of unsold homes and sales are weak, the market slows and home prices suffer. Fortunately, inventory has been falling for several years, and sales have been improving. So the Washington region as a whole is in a much better place than it was a few years ago.

Still, each jurisdiction within the region is its own real estate market. Today's charts look at the number of unsold homes each jurisdiction had on Nov. 30 as a percentage of its total housing stock.

I've already mentioned the region's most competitive market: Arlington County. According to U.S. Census data, there were 105,404 housing units in Arlington in 2010. On the last day of November, 592 homes were on the market there - just 0.5 percent of the county's total housing inventory.

The percentage also was quite low in Alexandria, Fairfax, Montgomery County and the District.

Every other jurisdiction saw more than 1 percent of housing stock up for sale. And the farther you go outside the Beltway, the higher the percentages go.

Yet things are much better than they were three years ago, when Fairfax was at 1.5 percent, Charles County was at 2.3 percent and Prince William County was approaching 3 percent.

Since then, a lot of homes have been sold, and the number of homes coming on the market has fallen.

Send email to csicks@gmail.com.

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