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Summer finishes strong, but sellers focus on spring

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Real Estate

The Washington real estate market remained strong in August, with data showing rising prices and increased sales. But even though low inventory drove up prices, many potential sellers still have equity losses from the housing bust and prefer to sit out an uncertain economy.

"Now that prices are appreciating, many potential home sellers are gearing up for what the early spring market brings," said Adam Gallegos, of Arbour Realty in Arlington. "Though they would like to sell now, they are hoping to get a little bit more money out of their home by waiting for spring."

The median price for detached homes rose 7.9 percent in August, compared with last year. Alexandria City recorded the highest price gain at 23 percent, along with Falls Church at 10 percent, according to the RealEstate Business Intelligence index. The median price for all homes in the metro area was 8.1 percent higher than last year at this time, data showed, marking the seventh consecutive year-over-year increase.

The number of new listings continued to decline, however, down year-over-year for the 18th consecutive month, and seriously limiting options for buyers, based on the RBI report.

While homeowners hold out for even higher prices, buyers would like them to remain where they are right now.

"Home buyers are a little frustrated with the lack of options. Some are expanding their searches; others are holding out hope that the right place comes along before prices rebound too much," Gallegos said.

The number of new listings in August was the lowest number for that month since before tracking began in 1997. Buyers are also expressing demand for new construction.

"A common question I am hearing is 'When are we going to have more new construction options?' Not only do they prefer new, they are tired of the slow trickle of resale options," Gallegos noted.

Based on an uncertain economy in an election year, local experts said the fall market may experience a slowdown.

"It looks like the fall market will be slower, said Lisa Sturtevant, assistant research professor at George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis, due to the "pervading political and economic uncertainty."

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