- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

More homes went on the market in April than in any other month on record. Never before in the Washington area were as many as 16,649 homes listed for sale in a single month. Yet, despite this influx of homes for sale, there still seem to be more buyers than homes.

The inventory of homes for sale also rose in April. Nearly 14,000 listings remained active on the last day of April — a 9 percent increase over April 2004.

What’s the difference between listings and inventory? A listing is a home placed in the regional sales database by a real estate agent. Known as the Multiple Listing Service in many parts of the country, this area is served by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.

The MRIS database contains thousands of homes for sale every day, and it is the most powerful tool in the arsenal of any home buyer, seller or real estate agent. More listings mean more selection and less competition for buyers.

“Inventory” is the number of available homes on a given day of the month. It is the supply of homes a buyer has to choose from. For the past several years, however, buyers have faced a dearth of supply when home shopping.

Consider these figures: There were 11,000 homes remaining in the area’s inventory on March 31. An additional 17,000 homes were listed in April. Yet only 14,000 homes remained on the market at the end of April. That indicates that homes are selling very quickly — typically, in three weeks or less. Homes in the most popular neighborhoods sell in only a few days.

Area home sales rose 7 percent in April compared with March. Dividing sales figures for the month by the inventory on the last day of the month results in a percentage — a figure I call sales chances. When chances are below 20 percent, we are in a buyer’s market, which we haven’t seen since 1998.

Due to the large inventory at the end of April, sales chances were lower last month than they had been in March. Of course, 92 percent is still a very high figure, but it was down a bit compared with last April’s 94 percent.

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail ([email protected]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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