- - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It was a little easier to sell a home in October in the Washington metro area. Home sales were higher than in September, but the inventory of unsold homes was lower. That’s exactly the combination sellers want.

A total of 6,839 existing homes were sold last month, an increase of more than 600 from September.

Now, I understand that an additional 600 sales are not, by themselves, that exciting.

The reason sellers could smile in October is this: At the same time sales were growing by 600, the inventory of homes for sale was falling by 1,500. This means buyers were more active than in September but they had a smaller pool of homes from which to choose.

When that happens — demand growing while supply shrinks — buyers have to compete more with one another. And that’s what brings about stable, and even growing, home prices.

As a result of these two factors, sales chances rose to 28 percent in October — the best since June.

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

The most competitive markets basically are the same ones we’ve seen for years: Alexandria and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William. But the District and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties all did well in October.

It is particularly encouraging to see chances at 29 percent for Prince George’s, the same as Montgomery County.

Two years ago, in October 2009, chances were 34 percent in Montgomery and just 17 percent in Prince George’s. Since then, buyers have realized that Prince George’s County is both close to the District and a place to find some very affordable homes. As a result, sales there are up 48 percent over last year. That’s the biggest increase in sales in the entire Washington-Baltimore region.

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