- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2011

The number of sold and unsold homes both were up in March, yet it was the best month for home sellers in a year.

Compared to February, there were 1,000 more unsold homes on the market in March. A growing inventory of unsold homes usually is not a good thing for sellers. More competition from other sellers makes homes harder to sell and puts downward pressure on prices.

The number of homes that actually were sold, however, rose from 6,751 in February to 8,922 in March. That’s an increase of 32 percent. Wow.

Because home sales rose much more than the inventory of unsold homes, Washington-area home sellers enjoyed a sales chance percentage of 35 percent in March. Fairfax County posted a stunning 57 percent sales chance figure, which means sellers there often had an advantage over buyers.

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. Typically, a figure below 20 percent indicates a buyer’s market. Higher figures mean we’re in a balanced market or a seller’s market.

Chances varied rather widely around the region in March. I already mentioned Fairfax - the region’s largest housing market. Chances were 56 percent in Prince William County and even higher in Manassas - 72 percent.

As you move farther north and east, however, you find chances as low as 14 percent in Baltimore, and below 10 percent on much of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Chances are higher when you look closer to Washington, of course, but Anne Arundel County is still a buyer’s market at just 19 percent. Montgomery County is the best-selling jurisdiction in Maryland at 41 percent.

We likely will see inventory and sales rise a little more in April, because it is typically the most active month of the real estate year.

As I’ve mentioned before, however, April 2010 was a very strange year because of the federal homebuyer tax credits that expired April 30, 2010. That put an unusual amount of pressure on buyers to make a deal, so this month’s sales figures will have a tough time beating last April.

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