Washington real estate inventory falls to lowest levels since 2005

Did you see many homes for sale last month? Me neither.

It’s not just the usual seasonal slowness. According to a report released Tuesday morning from RealEstate Business Intelligence, the region’s inventory of homes for sale declined 22 percent, to 10,584, in December 2011 compared to the same period a year ago.

That’s the lowest inventory the region has seen since 2005.

There is some good news: according to the RBI Pending Home Sale Index, one in 20 active homes for sale is a foreclosure, an 11-percent decrease from December 2010.

However, the data does not show that the region is out of the woods. The number of short-sale homes, or homes where debt owed on the home is greater than the worth of the home, increased in December 2011 and comprised nearly 23 percent of the market, a figure that remained essentially flat from a year earlier.

Overall, the region’s median sale price fell 3.6 percent in December 2011, to $325,000, compared to a year ago. The number of closed sales rose 1.7 percent.

The Washington region’s real estate market has fared better than other major metropolitan areas during the economic downturn, and certain neighborhoods within the District and Northern Virginia have seen prices climb back from their lows during the housing crisis. However, other areas of the region continue to struggle.

RBI, a subsidiary of MRIS, the region’s multiple listing service, forecasts that “upward pressure on prices will continue in 2012.”

The Index’s market area includes the District and Montgomery, Prince George’s, Arlington and Fairfax counties; and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church.

Check out a chart of the home sales figures (full-size view available):

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