Spring home-buying season may be heating up, but the Washington region is still a seller’s market. According to a report released Tuesday morning by RealEstate Business Intelligence, there’s been an increase of buying activity, but low inventory in the D.C. area continues to drive up prices.


(RBI)

Washington’s home inventory has been at all-time lows for months.

As a result, median sales prices in the region reached $345,000 in March, an 8.5 percent increase over February.

“The inventory level is so low compared to demand — that’s what really sticks out,” said Corey Hart, of RealEstate Business Intelligence, a division of the region’s multiple listings service, which issues the monthly report. “We should see further price increases if things trend the way they’ve been trending of late.”

Another factor that might be driving up prices is that short sales and foreclosures make up an increasingly smaller percentage of homes on the market. Active short sales are down 44.2 percent from March 2011 and represent 16.1 percent of active inventory, compared with 21.3 percent of active listings last March. What’s more, less than 3.5 percent are foreclosures, down from 7.9 percent in March 2011. That’s good news for the economy as a whole, but not great news for bargain-hunting home buyers.

“When a higher share of sold inventory is foreclosures or short sale, it tends to bring down pricing,” Hart said. “There is a higher share of traditional listings, and those houses tend to have a much higher sales price.”

Foreclosures are down in the area overall, but more than half of the active foreclosures in the metro are in Prince George’s County.

“They were hit harder than most areas in terms of predatory lending, and that’s also why the pricing there has lagged behind other areas,” Hart said.

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.

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Read the January RBI report here.

Read the February RBI report here.