- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

It became significantly easier to sell a home in the Washington metropolitan area in March. Yes, inventory remains high and future foreclosures could push it higher. For one month, at least, things were moving in the right direction.

Sales of existing homes shot up 25 percent from February to March. Realtors reported almost 8,500 ratified contracts on area homes last month, making it the best March for sellers in three years.

What made things really good for sellers last month was the nearly flat inventory. There were about 40,500 homes still available for purchase at the end of March, compared to 40,000 at the end of February.

  • See this week’s chart

    That is not what we are used to seeing. In 2008, inventory rose by 2,700 from February to March. In 2007, it rose by 5,000.

    Because inventory didn’t rise much this year, sellers didn’t face as much competition in March. This pushed sales-chance figures to 21 percent for the region - compared to just 13 percent in March 2008.

    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.

    The sales-to-inventory ratio was so good in Fairfax and Prince William that these counties could be considered seller’s markets in March. (Although sellers might not appreciate such positive terminology, given how far prices have fallen lately.)

    Chances were 30 percent in Fairfax County and an incredible 40 percent in Prince William County. Nowhere in the Washington region have we seen chances that high in the past three years.

    A bunch of additional foreclosures this year could cause inventory to rise again. For now, things are looking a little bit better.

    • Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail ([email protected]).

    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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