- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2011

One factor that will determine how the 2011 real estate market unfolds is how many unsold homes are already out there in the Washington region.

I’m talking about the inventory - the number of homes from which buyers have to choose. Comparing inventory and sales is the way I typically measure the competitiveness of our housing market. That is the supply-versus-demand approach, and it is very helpful.

If you want to see which jurisdictions have more unsold inventory than others, however, look at today’s charts. We are looking at the number of unsold homes each area had on Dec. 31 as a percentage of its total housing stock.

First we will look at the region’s most competitive market: Arlington County. According to U.S. Census data, there were 103,803 housing units in Arlington in 2009.

On the last day of 2010, 706 homes were on the market in Arlington - just 0.68 percent of the county’s total housing inventory.

For comparison, Stafford and Spotsylvania counties had three times as many of their homes on the market, but they are outside the Beltway, where the percentages are higher.

Back inside the Beltway, the District and the city of Alexandria had just less than 1 percent of their homes in the unsold inventory. It’s not because people don’t sell homes there. They do - but homes in Arlington, Alexandria and the District tend to sell more quickly than elsewhere, so they don’t remain stuck in the inventory.

Farther out, the percentage quickly climbs above 1 percent to more than 2 percent in some counties.

That is still far better than in 2008, however, when Fairfax was at 2 percent, Charles was at 3 percent and Prince William was over 5 percent. Since then, a lot of homes have been sold, and the number of homes coming on the market has fallen.

If we are hit with a flood of foreclosures in 2011, as some predict, we could see these percentages rise. Unless, of course, there are enough ready buyers to purchase those additional listings.

Send e-mail to csicks@gmail.com.

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