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Home prices increases, sales numbers remain low

Sales in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area have increased every month this year, yet are still lagging behind the sales numbers achieved during the same period last year.

In January 2011, 3,098 homes sold in the area; in February, 3,236 homes were sold and in March, 4,460 homes were sold. This is a 9 percent sales drop as compared to the first quarter 2010 figures: In January 2011, 3,440 homes were sold in the metropolitan area; in February, 3,278 homes were sold and in March 4,925 homes were sold, according to a housing market analysis released by Rosemary deButts April 12.

The sales decrease can partially be attributed to the expiration of the First Time Buyer’s Credit, which was in full swing during that time last year, according to deButts.

On the flip side, for the first time this year, the median sales price exceeded the $300,000 level in March. The median sales price was $299,900 in January and then dropped to $288,500 in February before settling in at $305,000 in March. The median sales price was above the $300,000 mark every month from March to December 2010, reaching its peak in July ($355,000.)

“As is often the case, February’s housing statistics were somewhat disappointing,” deButts said. “While March is following normal cyclical patterns and had healthy increases, the sales pace and median sales prices seem to look more like 2009 than 2010 - before the First Time Buyer’s Credit artificially stimulated demand.”

The closing sales price to original list price ratio improved for the second consecutive month in March. It was 94 percent in March 2011, 93.2 percent in February and 94.4 percent in March 2010. Loudoun had the largest increase in closing sales price to original list price ratio last month to reach 94.5 percent.

The share of distressed sales, which are classified as short sales and foreclosures, receeded in March after a sharp increase in February 2011, according to deButts.

Distressed sales represented 40 percent of the sales last month, she said. Distressed sales as a percentage of total sales have remained below the 2010 levels each month this year.

“Disregarding 2010, sales were right on target compared to March sales in 2008 and 2009,” deButts said. “While I don’t expect 2011 monthly sales to exceed the corresponding month in 2010 until the second half of the year, the market is behaving as expected.”

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