- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2011

December was the slowest month for Washington-area home sales all year, but that’s no surprise. December is always the slowest month of the year.

What’s more interesting and encouraging is that inventory fell, too.

“We saw an enormous drop in the inventory in December, but we still have quite a bit on the market. That’s because the supply is bigger than the inventory,” says Susann Haskins, manager of Long & Foster’s Gaithersburg/North Potomac office.

That threw me for a minute. What’s the difference between the “supply” of homes for sale and the “inventory”?

Mrs. Haskins explains: “I think of them differently because there is a lot of junk out there. In my mind, the supply is all the homes that are on the market, but the inventory is the salable stuff. Those are the homes that aren’t short sales and foreclosures in bad shape. And you still have some sellers who haven’t come to grips about what a realistic price is.”

As a result, the level of competition for “decent” homes priced realistically is greater than the data would indicate.

This jibes with my own home-shopping experience in the spring. There were many times when my wife and I walked into the foyer of a home and walked right back out. It was amazing how many properties were on the market that weren’t worthy of consideration because the prices were high and the quality was low.

But when homes are priced right and look good, buyers perk up.

“One of my agents was in competition recently for a $130,000 listing,” Mrs. Haskins says. “There were 13 offers for that property, and eight of those offers were all-cash. The winner paid all cash and closed within five days. So your first-time buyer is not able to compete with that.”

If January continues to be relatively snow-free, we will see a significant uptick in sales for this month. Inventory should rise, too. Let’s hope most of it is “decent.”

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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, Va.; and the District.

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