- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 28, 2004

September has been the easiest month, relatively speaking, to buy a home all year. This remains a very hot market, but many Washington-area home buyers found things just a little calmer in September.

Sales chances fell to 65 last month, down from 73 in August and dramatically lower than the year’s high point of 112 in March.

Sales chances are a measure of market activity, calculated by dividing home sales by inventory. The market tends to favor buyers when sales chances are less than 15 percent. When chances are greater than 20 percent, it is a seller’s market.

Obviously, a sales-chance figure of 65 means we are still in a seller’s market, and strong one. Buyers last month continued to battle one another for a limited number of available homes.

The battles were less fierce than in spring, although that would be difficult to notice in the most popular communities. Jurisdictions such as Alexandria, Arlington and Prince George’s continue to be difficult places to buy a home these days.

But if you have been thinking about buying and haven’t yet, now is the time. Sales chances decline every fall and winter, making the next few months the best time of year for buyers. It’s just the way the area economy works. Home sales are hottest from March to June and coolest from October to December.

Because the demand for homes is greatest in the spring, that’s when home prices shoot up the most. Most of this year’s increase in home prices occurred between March and June.

Since June, the market has cooled down, and so have prices. In many area jurisdictions, homes today are selling for a little less than they were in June.

That’s not to say that the value of your particular home has declined. The higher level of competition in the spring pushes up sales prices. Likewise, the decline in competition in the summer and fall means prices don’t get pushed up as much.

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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