- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2005

November is typically the second-slowest month of the annual real estate market. This year was no different, with only 7,869 homes sold last month in the Washington metropolitan area. Sales were down 18 percent compared to last year — the same decline we saw in October.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say “only” 7,869 homes were sold. Although sales were much lower than in November 2004, they don’t appear very low if you go back a little further. In 2001, when the seller’s market was truly beginning to take off, sales totaled 7,339.

Looking back to the slow buyer’s market of the mid-1990s, you will find 3,000 to 4,000 was typical for the month of November. That was a truly cool market.

Of course, a lot of new homes have been built since then, so it’s not easy to draw direct comparisons when studying the resale market over time.

But we can be certain that the frenzied market of six months ago is now gone. As a result, the inventory of homes for sale has risen dramatically and sales have fallen.

Charles County was the only area county to see growth in sales last month.

Sales there were up 10 percent in November, which is rather significant considering that many other counties were down by 20 percent or more. I believe the affordability of Charles County is buoying sales there during this cooling-off period. The median price for a home there was $263,500 last month.

My theory is bolstered by the statistics of two other affordably priced counties: Spotsylvania and Prince George’s. Although sales were down in both of these jurisdictions, they weren’t down by much. Sales fell the most in high-priced communities like the District, Fairfax, Loudoun and Montgomery.

Again, I believe buyers are being drawn to homes that are reasonably priced. This trend will only continue if interest rates climb in 2006.

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail (csicks@gmail.com).

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