- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2004

October sales of existing homes were up 10 percent compared with October 2003.

Sales were even higher than in September, although by only 400 sales.

Washington-area home sales actually increase every October, so last month’s bump in sales doesn’t tell us much about the market. All it tells us is that although 2004 is the hottest market on record, it still follows normal seasonal patterns.

But why do sales increase in October each year? The best explanation seems to be that October is the last convenient month to buy a home.

Sales are strongest in the spring, slowing a bit in the summer. Many home buyers want to get moved in before school begins for their children in September, so that motivates many to buy in the spring and early summer.

September is far too busy to worry about home shopping. You’ve just returned from August vacation, Congress is back in session and the children are in school.

So, if you didn’t buy in the spring or summer, October seems like a good time to do it because November and December will be too hectic. The holidays bring their own busyness, and who wants to move furniture with snow on the ground?

Overall, the region continues to experience an extreme seller’s market — the strongest on record. With a very small number of homes on the market and strong demand among buyers, sellers have been able to dictate price and terms all year. Although their leverage will continue to weaken through January, they will retain a decisive advantage.

Some sellers will continue to get carried away with their asking prices. Buyers need to be careful not to overpay. (Hint: Get a buyer’s agent to help you know what is a fair price to pay.)

If you make a bid on a house you like, be prepared to face competition from other buyers. They haven’t gone away. Homes in the most popular neighborhoods are still selling in weeks or even days.

Many buyers will offer full price or more, so know what you can afford and stick to it.

The statistics in this story reflect a metropolitan area that includes the Maryland counties of Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Howard, Charles and Frederick; the Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania and Stafford; the city of Alexandria; and

the District.

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