- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

Last month, the Washington metropolitan real estate market felt like the Twilight Zone. It was 1998 all over again, as sellers sat and waited months to sell their homes and buyers took their time to make their selections.

Sales chances were only 18 percent in the metropolitan area — exactly where we were in June 1998. We are back in that place because the ratio of inventory to sales was the same last month as it was eight years ago.

Dividing sales figures for the month by the inventory on the last day of the month results in a percentage that I call “sales chances.” A figure below 20 percent indicates a buyer’s market. Higher figures mean we’re in a balanced market or a seller’s market.

Almost every market in the region was a buyer’s market last month, as home shoppers enjoyed the abundance of homes for sale and the time to think through their decisions.

There were 48,000 homes to choose from on a given day in June — the highest inventory ever recorded in our area. Yet only 8,500 homes were sold in June, down 34 percent compared to June 2005.

Homes are selling much more slowly than they did last year, but not as slowly as they did in 1998. I don’t know if it will lift the spirits of area sellers, but homes were selling more slowly eight years ago.

For instance, homes sold last month in the District had been on the market for 49 days. Those in June 1998 took 158 days to sell. Almost every home in the region took more than 100 days to sell eight years ago.

Still, 40 to 50 days must seem like an eternity now, considering that homes were selling twice as fast last year.

Despite the slow sales, homes in the region have retained the value they gained during the fast-paced seller’s market of 2000-2005.

In some counties, sales prices are down by a thousand or two compared to last June, but, in most jurisdictions, prices are actually up a bit over last year.

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail ([email protected]gmail.com).

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