Home Inventory Is Low — Especially Around DC

WASHINGTON — Spring is usually a time when the real estate market comes alive with homes for sale, but this year appears to be an exception.

“In most areas we’re seeing less than a two-month supply of inventory,” said Mike Altobelli, an associate broker with RE/MAX Reality Services in Bethesda, Maryland.

Low inventory is common in several U.S. cities, and here in the D.C. area, inventory has dropped 27 percent compared with the spring of 2012, according to Trulia.

“It’s really affecting all price ranges,” Altobelli said.

The lower-priced starter home offerings have seen the biggest decline over the same period — down by 42 percent this year. Trade-up home inventory is down by almost 26 percent, with pricier premium homes down by almost 12 percent.

While it’s a good time for sellers moving out of the area, it is the lack of inventory that is keeping sellers looking to downgrade or upgrade from listing their houses for sale.

“Many sellers are hesitant to put their home on the market and list for sale because they are afraid they are not going to find anything to buy,” Altobelli said.

Where there has been an increase, is in how much homebuyers make for a living. For starter homes, the median income of buyers is $40,454; for those looking to trade up, that number is $98,040. Finally, according to Trulia, $198,454 is the median annual income for buyers purchasing premium homes this year.

During a time like this, Altobelli said, buyers should expect to bid multiple times before they close on a home. Also, sealing the deal could require increasing your down payment and customizing bids to meet the seller’s needs.

“As an agent, I ask the agent on the other side what the seller really is looking for, because it is not always about price,” said Altobelli.

One popular move for buyers is a rent-back option, which allows the seller to rent the home until they find a new one. Also, taking a home inspector to the home before placing a bid can also help in a bidding war, because you won’t need to add a home inspection contingency to your contract.

For homeowners on the fence about selling, Altobelli recommends listing a home and moving to a temporary place while searching for the next home.

“That way they are not forced to deal with whatever the inventory levels are at the time that they sell,” Altobelli said.

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