- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 17, 2011

Anyone trying to sell a home knows competition from other sellers can be a big concern. When buyers have heaps of homes from which to choose, they are less likely to pay top dollar for yours.

Some folks looking for housing in the Washington area are torn between buying and renting, which means rental properties are another potential source of competition for owners.

Fortunately for sellers, we have seen declines in the number of homes listed for sale and also those available for rent, as today’s charts show.

Just more than 120,000 homes were listed for sale last year, a bit higher than the 2009 total of 118,000 homes. The good news is how much lower those figures were than what we saw from 2002 to 2008.

The high number of listings from 2006 to 2008 was especially problematic because sales were so slow in those years. That surge in listings is the reason we still have such a large inventory of unsold homes, as you can see in the bottom chart. It is encouraging, however, to see how far the inventory has fallen in recent years.

In the rental market, we saw about 38,000 listings last year, a 12 percent drop compared to 2009 and the lowest number since 2005.

During the years that listings were so high, we also saw a rise in the number of rental vacancies and homeowner vacancies, according to U.S. census data. Both of these figures were down at the close of 2010.

Some homeowner vacancies are homes that are under foreclosure. Once a bank forecloses on a home, it needs to be sold. Sometimes a bank will list the home with a Realtor, which means it shows up in the Resale Listings data.

But because of the foreclosure paperwork headaches that banks are dealing with right now, a significant number of foreclosed homes are sitting vacant and unavailable to buyers until things are sorted out.

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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