- The Washington Times - Friday, February 19, 2010

The January real estate market was strong, but what will this month’s record snowfall do to February?

A big surge in home sales in Maryland got the 2010 resale market off to a strong start, with a total of 6,625 existing homes sold last month in the Washington region. That was an increase of 14 percent over January 2009.

That increase was due to high sales figures in Maryland and the District. Sales in Maryland were 50 percent higher than they were a year earlier.

Meanwhile, Virginia sales fell by 11 percent. That was largely because of a 31 percent drop in sales in Prince William County, which had seen a surge of sales in 2008 and 2009 driven by very low home prices.

PDF: Charting the market

As interesting as January is, a lot of us are looking ahead to February statistics, wondering how the dramatic weather we just experienced will affect sales for this month.

Will the snow keep homebuyers shoveling instead of shopping?

Probably.

If we look back to February 2007, we find that it was 10 degrees colder than January and had three times as much snow. As a result, sales fell in February.

As I look back over data for the past 12 years, it’s clear the weather almost always determines whether January or February will have more sales.

This February, not only has the weather been worse than January’s, it also has been worse than in any month on record. We can expect to see a significant drop in sales activity when February data become available.

I imagine we’ll also see a big bump in sales in March, for two reasons. First, there will be the pent-up demand from buyers who couldn’t get a home in February.

Second, buyers who want to take advantage of the federal tax credit for home purchases need to have a ratified contract by April 30 and go to settlement by July 1, which should result in a flurry of activity among homebuyers in March and April.

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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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