- The Washington Times - Friday, January 1, 2010

Yesterday marked the end of 2009. Was it also the end of real estate woes? It might have been, at least according to one measure of the real estate market.

There’s a significant piece of data that can tell us a lot about the Washington-area housing market. It gives us a sense of where we’ve been and where we are headed. It’s the “supply” part of the supply-and-demand equation.

I’m talking about listings - the number of homes listed for sale with area Realtors.

Listings tell us how many people want to sell their homes, either to move away, move to another home in the area or cash out and walk away with a profit (something we haven’t seen much recently).

As you can see in today’s charts, listings were quite low last year. During the first 11 months of 2009, a total of 112,090 homes were listed with Realtors. That’s 18 percent fewer than during the comparable period in 2008 and a drop of 36 percent compared to 2006.

The all-time record for listings was set in 2006 because folks realized that the real estate boom was busting, and they wanted to sell before prices fell.

Unfortunately, the 183,000 homes listed in 2006 didn’t sell very well, and that’s why our inventory got so bloated.

Remember that home listings are not the same as inventory. The inventory is the number of homes on the market on a given day. In other words, it is the volume of competition you face as a seller. If you are a buyer, the inventory represents the number of homes you can view as you shop around.

Fortunately, listings fell in 2009 and sales rose. That combination kept inventory down. At the end of November, inventory was down to 32,745, 25 percent less than in November 2008.

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail (csicks@gmail.com).

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