- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Nearly 9,300 homes were sold in the Washington metropolitan area last month, which may sound like a lot. That is a lot of property changing hands.

If you compare last month to May 1996, when just 5,000 homes were sold, 9,300 seems like a big number.

However, most people don’t care what the market was like a decade ago. For someone who is trying to sell today, comparing last month to May 2005 is much more important.

Some friends of mine, for instance, considered selling a condo in Arlington last year. In the end, they decided to hold onto it for another year or two.

Oops.

Last year, nearly 14,000 homes were sold in May. That month was the peak of a six-year seller’s market.

May 2005 was the busiest sales month ever in the Washington region. Homes were selling quickly and for big bucks.

My friends decided to wait. Back then, no one knew when the market would slow down. It seemed likely that the seller’s market would continue for another year or two.

It didn’t. My friends put their home on the market last month.

Home sales this May were 33 percent slower than last May. Sales were off 43 percent in Virginia and 23 percent in Maryland.

Loudoun and Prince William counties have experienced the sharpest drop in sales this year, with year-to-date sales down more than 30 percent.

By contrast, Charles and Prince George’s counties have seen sales fall 5 percent during the first five months of the year — the smallest decline in the region.

Did my friends lose money by not selling last year? Hard to say. Median sale prices in Arlington this May were 2 percent higher than last May, so they may have made a little money by waiting.

However, they will be waiting weeks to sell that condo instead of the days they would have waited just one year ago.

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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