The couple originally listed the home, built in 2003, for $1.2 million during the spring, but then they encountered an unexpected disruption that dampened potential buyer interest.
“Fairfax County began digging a new sewer line with a trench up the middle of the street,” says Bill Cummings, a consultant to ExxonMobil. “The impact on the access to the house was pretty substantial.”
By September, with no offers pending, the Cummingses took the house off the market. Then as the sewer project wound down, they listed it in November and lowered the price. “There is less buying activity at the end of the year, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t looking,” says Bill Cummings.
Like other homeowners trying to sell during the holiday season, the pair is facing a slow market as people put their home-buying plans on hold to enjoy festivities and family visits.
But December’s real estate picture isn’t completely gloomy. The dwindling inventory of homes for sale inside the Beltway is helping to drive prices up, while mortgage interest rates continue to remain historically low.
“That’s a really a good reason for selling right now,” says mortgage banker Cody Kessler with the Real Estate Mortgage Network in Rockville. “Homes are staying on the market for a shorter period of time, and you are seeing multiple contracts because there isn’t much inventory.”
Part of the reason for the reduced number of properties for sale is that sellers don’t want to list in December when fewer buyers are on the hunt. “It isn’t a pleasant time to look at houses unless you are super-motivated,” says District-based Remax Gateway real estate agent Morgan Knull. “It’s cold and dreary, and you can’t see pools or landscaping. It gets dark early, and that can hamper home inspections.”
As a result, January is one of the slowest months of the year for closings on sales, says spokesman Walter Molony of the National Association of Realtors. He points to the association’s statistics showing that home sales across the country this year were highest during August at 476,000 and lowest during January at 260,000.
Home sales in the District reflect the same general pattern. According to monthly market data compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems or MRIS, the dollar volume of home sales in Washington totaled about $203 million in January 2012, compared with about $339 million in August and $266 million in December 2011.
Home shoppers are fewer in number during December than in spring and summer, but the good news is that they are more likely to buy. “You have very motivated buyers looking at holiday time,” says Bowie agent Selma Jager of Long and Foster. “They are not tire-kickers.”