- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2005

Washington-area home sales fell to their lowest point of the year last month, with only 7,869 existing homes sold.

It’s not surprising that November sales would be low. This happens every year. But last month’s sales were down 18 percent compared to November 2004.

Another statistic is even more important when considering the state of the housing market: inventory.

The inventory of homes for sale was 27,708 at the end of November.

Compare this to only 9,757 last November, and you can immediately see the dramatic change in the market.

With nearly three times the number of homes for sale, and fewer homes actually selling, the Washington metropolitan market is now much slower than it was in the spring.

I’m particularly amazed at how some of the hottest markets have now become the coolest. The city of Alexandria is a good example. In April, sales chances were 125 percent in Alexandria, the second-highest in the region after Prince George’s County.

Last month, Prince George’s County still had the highest sales chances in our area, but Alexandria was second-to-last. Only Loudoun County had a cooler market in November.

Overall, sales chances in the metropolitan area were 34 percent last month, a little higher than in October but much lower than last November’s 98 percent.

Sales chances are my way of measuring the level of competition in the real estate market. Dividing sales figures for the month by the inventory on the last day of the month results in a percentage. A figure below 20 percent indicates a buyer’s market. Higher figures mean we’re in a seller’s market.

In the new year, sales chances might rise a bit as the spring market heats up. However, the huge inventory of unsold homes could grow, pushing chances even lower than they are now.

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

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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