- - Thursday, May 17, 2012

After jumping 26 percent from February to March, Washington-area home sales dropped by 2 percent in April.

Don’t be alarmed. This is not unusual. April sales were 9 percent lower than March in 2011.

If you look back over the past 12 years, March had the highest sales four times. April and May each had four turns as the top, as well.

It’s probably impossible to know for certain why, but the busiest month of the real estate year shifts around a little bit - although it is always seems to land in March, April or May.

Why is the spring market always the strongest around here?

“Because there is more inventory,” Stephen Israel said. He is the president of the Buyer’s Edge, a company that only represents buyers. “There is more inventory in the spring because sellers want to make home to look best. They wait for the grass to be green and the dogwoods to bloom. Some people literally wait until the azaleas are in bloom in the front yard, and then their home is listed for sale that day.”

I pointed out to Mr. Israel that this could be a chicken-and-egg thing. Maybe there is more inventory in the spring because that’s when the buyers usually are active?

The two factors probably encourage one another, I think. And there’s also some pent-up demand from buyers who didn’t buy anything during the slow winter market.

In the end, what you really need to know as a buyer or seller is that the busy spring market of 2012 is nearly over. Homes will be listed and sold in the summer, but right now is when things are really hopping.

“Half of our contracts this year have been bidding wars with multiple offers,” Mr. Israel said. “There were 13 offers on a house recently in Brightwood in the District. It finally sold for 12 or 15 percent more than the list price.”

That kind of buyer competition is seen more often in the spring than at any other time of year. It’s the reason home prices rise more from March to June than at any other period. When buyers have to fight to get the homes they want, they push prices up.

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