Charting the market: Quicker sales help lift prices

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Nearly 7,000 Washington-area home sellers found buyers in September. Sales contracts were 11 percent higher than in September 2011, and it was the best September since 2005.

Because buyers have been more active than we’ve seen in seven years, the time it takes to sell a home has dropped. That is a result of two things: the increase in sales and a huge drop in the amount of unsold inventory.

You’ll have to read next week’s column to learn more about our low inventory. For now, I’ll share one of the results of higher sales and lower inventory: quicker sales.

Homes sold in Prince William County in September had been on the market for an average of 43 days, compared to 118 days in 2007. Prince William has been the fastest-selling county in the region this year.

The only jurisdictions where homes sell quicker are three Northern Virginia cities: Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park City. September’s sales in those cities occurred in 24, 26 and 23 days, respectively.

Nowhere else in Virginia or Maryland will you find homes selling in less than a month, and it’s been like that all year in those cities.

Still, the rest of the region is doing far better than in recent years. In Maryland, sales in Anne Arundel County took 128 days in September 2010, 116 days in 2011 and 97 days this year. Charles County sales accelerated from 125 days in 2010 to 79 days this year.

Faster sales are a blessing to home sellers in several ways. It’s obviously less stressful and frustrating if your home sells quickly, but it also can be more profitable.

When homes are selling very slowly, buyers feel no incentive to bid prices up. They can take their time and make lower offers because they don’t feel the pressure of other buyers bidding against them.

As homes start selling more quickly, buyers grow concerned that someone else will snatch their favorite property before they can get a contract on it. So they make stronger offers, and that causes prices to rise and sales times to fall.

Send email to csicks@gmail.com.

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