- - Thursday, September 1, 2011

If you’ve ever sold a home, you know how nerve-wracking it can be. Keeping it clean, getting your hopes up every time someone comes to see it, waiting and wondering if the right buyer will ever come along.

Even though home sales are up 15 percent this year — higher than any year since 2006 — it still takes some time to sell a home.

It can take even longer these days because of foreclosures and short sales. A full 31 percent of all residential home sales in the second quarter were properties in some stage of the foreclosure process.

That process adds time as potential buyers wait for banks to approve paperwork. Short sales take even more time because the bank holding the mortgage must be persuaded to accept less money than it is owed.

On top of all that, today’s buyers often have to deal with additional red tape from their lenders, which want to be sure everything is in order.

Despite all this, some parts of the Washington region have seen a decrease in the time it takes to sell a home.

As today’s charts show, area homes were selling very quickly in 2005 — too quickly, actually. The market was so hyperactive from 2003 to 2005 that some buyers were pulling the trigger without really considering what they were buying or if they could afford it.

When the real estate market began cooling in 2006, home sales slowed dramatically. By 2007, homes were taking two to four times longer to sell than they had been in 2005. And 2009 was even worse in most jurisdictions.

Then, sales began improving, and the inventory of unsold homes began shrinking. That meant sellers had a better chance of finding a buyer and there was a smaller number of competing homes for sale.

It still takes an average of six to 15 weeks to sell a home in the Washington area. But perhaps as the foreclosure mess gets cleaned up, we could see that time fall a little further.

Not too far, however! No one wants to return to the unhealthy pace of 2003-05, which was the real cause of all this foreclosure mess we’re facing.

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