- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Last month, the inventory of homes for sale in the Washington metropolitan area was almost precisely where it had been at the end of August.

The fact that it didn’t rise is a good thing. The bad thing, however, is that home sales fell.

Sales in September were down 14 percent compared to August. As a result, sales chances fell to their lowest level since 1997.

Chances were as low as 9 percent in some Northern Virginia counties, and as high as 24 percent in popular Prince George’s County.

Sales chances are calculated by dividing a month’s sales figures by the inventory on the last day of the month, resulting 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.

Overall, chances in the metropolitan area were 14 percent in September, down quite a bit from last year’s 35 percent. Of course, the market had already begun to cool by September 2005.

If you go back to September 2004, when chances were 65 percent, it becomes even more apparent how much our real estate market has cooled off.

Sales will fall further during the last quarter of the year, so let’s hope inventory also continues to fall. It was encouraging to see that only 15,000 homes were placed on the market last month. That’s the fewest we’ve seen since February.

If the falling inventory keeps pace with diminishing sales as the year winds down, the market will continue to favor buyers without completely crushing sellers’ spirits.

Home prices certainly aren’t buoying sellers’ hearts. Sales prices were down in many jurisdictions in September.

The median sales price in Loudoun County was 9 percent lower than it was a year ago. Prices were down 8 percent in Fairfax and 6 percent in Arlington.

However, prices were up 9 percent in the District and 6 percent in Prince George’s County.

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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