- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Buyers who went home shopping in October enjoyed something they had been missing for years — freedom.

For the first time in six years, Washington-area home buyers had the freedom to slow down and choose the home they really wanted to buy.

This was possible because the number of homes on the market has ballooned in the past few months. At the close of October, nearly 29,000 homes were available for purchase in the Washington metropolitan area. Buyers haven’t enjoyed that kind of selection since 1999.

Not only did buyers have a lot of homes to choose from, they had the luxury of slowing down to think about their choices. Homes are staying on the market longer than they were last year because sales are down.

More important for buyers, the market isn’t as competitive as it was just five or six months ago. Then, a home buyer faced stiff competition from other eager buyers, so you had to act quickly.

Today, however, sales chances are dramatically lower than they were in the spring. One county has even transitioned to a buyer’s market already.

Overall, sales chances in the Washington area were 32 percent last month. 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 transitional or seller’s market.

We were certainly in a seller’s market four months ago. Sales chances were 91 percent in May. Last month, chances fell to their lowest point since January 2000, when they were at 29 percent.

Chances in Loudoun County fell all the way to 18 percent, meaning that buyers there actually had an edge over sellers last month.

Other counties will become buyer’s markets in the coming year — a change buyers will welcome gladly.

• 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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