- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2010

Friends of mine are trying to decide whether to sell their town home in Alexandria, Va., in October or wait until spring.

They could cover their costs by continuing to rent the property until spring. Waiting until February or March to list the home for sale would put it on the market when buyers are most active, improving chances for a quick sale and a tidy profit.

Every year we see the same pattern: Sellers experience faster sales from February through May, and those also are the months when home prices are most likely to rise.

Besides, the current market isn’t so hot. Given August’s total of just 7,000 sales in the Washington region, this fall isn’t likely to be a great seller’s market. So perhaps waiting until spring makes the most sense.

On the other hand, mortgage interest rates are ridiculously low right now. It’s surprising more buyers aren’t motivated by these rates, but the broader economy seems to have a lot of folks spooked.

We might not have rates this low in the spring, so that’s an unknown factor that makes waiting until spring less attractive.

Here’s the clincher for me: When you look at supply and demand, you find reasons not to wait. Sales in August were down 16 percent compared to August 2009, but the inventory of unsold homes was up 2 percent over last year.

If sales don’t pick up the pace in the coming months, we could find ourselves with a bloated inventory of homes that aren’t selling at the start of 2011. That would be a drag on the spring market.

In the end, I’m recommending that they sell in October. They need to price it right (not too high) to make sure they sell in October. November and December, after all, are the slowest months of any real estate year, and they don’t want their home languishing on the market all winter.

Send e-mail to 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, Va.; and the District.

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