Why DC-area housing market’s lack of inventory is feeding on itself

Home sales typically slow this time of year, and they have in the D.C. metro, but by a better comparison, pending sales in the D.C. metro area in October were little changed from the same time last year.

Online home searches by potential buyers have slowed, and showings by real estate agents are down 6.5% from a year ago. All of that points to what could now be buyer fatigue.



“Even though inventories have declined, prices are rising but sales are a little weaker. It’s as if buyers are saying to themselves, ‘You know, at these higher prices, let me think a little more carefully, and look a little more thoughtfully. I don’t have to feel pressure to buy the first thing I see,’” said Elliot Eisenberg, a real estate economist with listing service Bright MLS.

Bright MLS labels the current buyer demand for the D.C. metro as “moderate,” after being squarely in the “high” category for most of last year and through this summer.

With prices continuing to move ever higher, although at a slower pace, what would balance the real estate market more would be if there were more houses for sale.

But the inventory problem is actually feeding on itself.

“The lack of inventory makes it even harder to get new inventory. Because, perhaps you want to sell but you also want to stay living in the D.C. area, but there are no houses for sale where you want to move, so you can’t sell,” Eisenberg said.

One measure of inventory available is how fast the current inventory would sell at current buyer pace if no new listings were added. For mid-priced single-family homes, in the D.C. region, inventory is just 1.3 months.

New listings in October in the D.C. metro market were down 16% from last October.

The median selling price in the D.C. metro in October was still a record $535,000, up 7% from October 2020.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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