Charting the market: Md., Va. balanced in August

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Sales contracts were signed on about 7,500 homes in the Washington area in August. Although it was the slowest month since February, it beat August 2011 by 8 percent.

Besides, last month’s sales were better than sales in any of the 12 months in 2008, which shows how far we have come since then. Total sales for January through August were 65,000 this year, compared with just 48,000 in 2008.

As I have mentioned numerous times, August is not a great sales month in any year. The busiest months of any year are always March, April and May — as you can see in the bottom chart.

Maryland sales edged out Virginia’s last month, as sales continued to climb in Montgomery, Prince George’s and other counties. Virginia sales are increasing, too, but at a slower pace.

Eight months into 2012, sales totals on the two sides of the Potomac are almost exactly the same. Nearly 30,000 ratified contracts were reported on each side, an increase of 6 percent for Maryland and 4 percent for Virginia.

Sales in the two jurisdictions are not always that evenly matched. Looking again at 2008 demonstrates just how different the past four years have been for these two parts of the metro area.

During the first eight months of 2008, 27,500 sales were recorded on the Virginia side. That’s just 2,500 fewer than this year.

On the Maryland side, however, there were just 17,000 sales in those eight months — 13,000 fewer than this year.

Why? Well, home prices fell dramatically in 2008 in Virginia. While this was a shock, the lower prices stimulated buyer activity. Maryland prices continued to fall in 2009 and 2010, delaying the renewed response from buyers.

Now that prices have stabilized on both sides of the river, sales activity is equal.

The Virginia market still has an overall edge, however, because of lower inventory. With 2,600 fewer unsold homes on the market at the end of August, Virginia is a more competitive market. And that’s good for home prices.

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