The busy real estate market in D.C. and other cities typically occur in the spring and fall months. After sales peak in June, summer starts slowing down — especially August when Congress and most of the rest of town is shut down. But the really slow season for real estate is winter. The following graph shows the average of active listings and sold listings in Washington for the last five years:
The graph shows the two peaks for active listings (available inventory) in April-June and September-October, as well as the peak for sold listings in June. Sales fall off to a fairly even level from September to November, but begin falling from December down through January and February, when they begin rising through the spring market toward the June sales peak.
Although the winter months are slow, they actually offer advantages for sellers and buyers. For sellers, the relatively low number of active listings means that there is less competition from other listings in the market. Plus, a smaller sales inventory may make their properties more desirable because there are fewer options for those buyers who must find something quickly.
For buyers, the slow winter market means there are also fewer buyers competing with them for desirable properties. Any buyer who has participated in the frenzied feeding of this past spring market, with escalation clauses in contracts and sold prices higher than asking prices, knows that can be a welcome relief. And there may actually be some relative bargains out there from sellers who need to sell right away. We’ve already seen some softening of sold prices and some decrease in the speed of rising prices in the DC market.
In addition, this year’s winter market offers a special advantage for buyers. For the first time in the last five years, the inventory of active listings has actually risen in November, so there’s more selection.
Of course, this statistic has to be balanced against the fact that active listings have been at their five-year low, so this rise in November inventory merely brings the inventory level back the November 2012 level. Nevertheless, it still increases the selections for buyers.
Reach Ted Smith at TedSmithSellsDC@stagesre.com and follow him on Facebook.com/MidCityDCLife, Youtube.com/TedSmithSellsDC or @TedSmithSellsDC. You can also join him at free monthly seminars for first-time homebuyers or weekly tours of open houses in a different neighborhood each week. Sign up at meetup.com/DCMidCity1stTimeHomeBuyers/.