- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007

Close your eyes. Think back three years. If you were in the market to buy or sell a home in the Washington metropolitan area, I can tell you what you were thinking.

If you were buying, your thoughts were: “Golly, when are we finally going to be able to buy? Every time we make an offer, someone outbids us.”

For those of you who were selling three years ago, you were thinking: “I wonder if our home will take one week to sell or two weeks? And what are we going to do with all the profits?”

Don’t those sentiments sound foreign and absurd right now?

Last month, just 5,386 existing homes were sold in the metropolitan area. In August 2004, 11,499 homes were sold.

Home sellers are no longer hoping to sell in a week. Now they would be happy to sell in a month or two. The average time on the market for homes sold in August was much higher than it was four years ago.

For example: In August 2004, homes sold in Fairfax County were on the market an average of 18 days. Last month: 78 days. Prince William County in 2004: 20 days. Last month: 126 days.

Home buyers, on the other hand, should have really enjoyed their home-shopping experience in August. They had 50,000 homes from which to choose, compared to fewer than 16,000 three years ago.

That kind of selection means buyers usually can compare several homes and take a few days to consider how much to offer on the one they like best. Once they make an offer, they don’t have to worry as much that other buyers will swoop in to offer thousands more.

Of course, one thing is worse today for home buyers. Home prices are higher than they were in 2004. Even though prices have fallen in many markets during the past two years, they are still higher than they were three years ago.

However, if the market continues to favor buyers as dramatically as it did last month, we should expect prices to stay fairly level — perhaps even dropping in some markets.

Chris Sicks

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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