- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2008

At summer’s end, some positive signs developed in the Washington-area real estate market. The inventory of unsold homes dropped below 50,000 - good news for sellers tired of competing with so many other sellers.

More important, sales of existing homes were up 34 percent in August over August 2007. We haven’t seen sales shoot up like that since 1999.

Sales also held up rather well for the end of the summer. Buyers typically show less interest in purchasing homes as the summer progresses. Last year, we watched the number of sales decline by 1,300 from July to August. This year, they only dropped by 200.

Despite these good signs, allow me to remind you of one important thing I mentioned last week: August’s strong sales were mostly in the Virginia half of the metropolitan area. Sales increases of 48 percent in Fairfax County, 66 percent in Loudoun County and 211 percent in Prince William County are responsible for the bulk of last month’s sales increase over last year.

Maryland’s Montgomery County did enjoy a sales increase of 31 percent compared to August 2007, and sales were up 24 percent in Frederick County. Going forward, we can hope Maryland will show even more signs of a sales recovery.

If sales continue to improve on both sides of the Potomac River, it could help stabilize prices and contribute some balance to a sales climate that has favored buyers for two years.

Sellers also will benefit if we experience further declines in the inventory. I expect this to happen in the coming months.

Inventory typically drops in the fall, anyway, but because fewer homes are coming on the market now, we can hope for a significant drop in the inventory of unsold homes. Only 10,900 homes were listed with area Realtors in August, a drop of 21 percent compared to last year.

Contact Chris Sicks.

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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