- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2006

More than 25,000 homes were sold in the Washington area during the first three months of the year — a drop of 11 percent compared the first quarter of last year.

Sales were down by double digits all over Northern Virginia, while sales in Maryland were only down by 2 to 7 percent. Prince George’s County actually posted a 1 percent increase in sales, which proves how popular that community has become with home buyers.

The region’s falling sales are significant, but not shocking. Just four years ago, in the first quarter of 2002, we saw the same level of sales as we have had this year.

More startling is how slowly homes sold in the first three months of the year.

Homes sold in Montgomery County in March had been on the market for an average of 50 days — twice as long as it took to sell a home in March 2005.

It was even more dramatic in Virginia. In Fairfax County, homes took 59 days to sell, compared to only 19 days last year.

The slower pace of this year’s market also shows up in the sales chance figures. In the charts at left, notice how high sales chances were from 2002 to 2005. Especially in 2004, it once was incredibly easy to sell a home around here.

But chances crashed during the first quarter of this year as the market became flooded with properties for sale.

Sales chances measure 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 balanced market or a seller’s market.

Most of the region is now experiencing a balanced market, where neither the seller nor buyer is in a dominant negotiating position. The one place this isn’t true is Prince George’s County, where chances were 53 percent last month, meaning that sellers there are still enjoying the strong seller’s market of last year.

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

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