Housing prices are going up, days on the market are going down, and the scarcity of houses for sale indicates that the Washington region is a seller’s market, according to a report by RealEstate Business Intelligence and the GMU Center for Regional Analysis on January housing data.

Yet, homeowners remain reluctant to put their homes up for sale. The number of new listings in January was the lowest for that month in 15 years. 

There are several theories why so few homeowners are willing to sell their homes. Many are underwater on their mortgages and can’t afford to sell. Others are worried about finding something to buy after they sell. And some are concerned about how the pending federal budget cuts might affect them and don’t want to undertake a large purchase because of that uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the median sales price in the area continues to rise compared to last year. It climbed to $343,200, which was up 10.7 percent from January 2012, the fourth consecutive month it has shown a double-digit increase. However, it was down 4.4 percent from December, which is typical for this time of year.

 Townhouses showed the biggest gain in median price, up 13.3 percent year-over-year. Condos were up 13 percent, while single-family houses rose 3.8 percent.

Arlington County was the only jurisdiction that had a decline in median sales price. This was due in part to condos accounting for 55.1 percent of sales and those properties tend to have lower price points.

Housing Trends for the Washington Metro Area

Jan. 2013 %MOM Dec. 2012 %YOY Jan. 2012
Units sold 2,497 -24.9% 3,323 6.6% 2,343
Median sales price $343,200 -4.4% $359,000 10.7% $310,000
Pending sales 3,916 26.4% 3,097 3% 3,802
Active listings 6,049 -6.4% 6,466 -40.1% 10,095
New listings 4,004 62.4% 2,465 -4.2% 4,178
Average DOM 63 3.3% 61 -26.7% 86
Listing discount 4% 3.7% 7%
Avg SP to OLP ratio 96% 96.3% 93%

Source: RealEstate Business Intelligence

While sales showed a 6.6 percent year-over-year increase in January, the low inventory could be muting this number. There were 2,497 sales last month, which was down 24.9 percent from December, but still in line with seasonal patterns.

Sales of single-family houses had the biggest gain, up 8.8 percent. Sales of condos rose 5.4 percent, while townhouses were up 3.9 percent. This is the first time since March that single-family houses led the other two property types.  

January Median Sales Price by Jurisdiction

2013 2012 YoY
DC Metro $343,200 $310,000 10.7%
Falls Church $612,062 $425,500 43.8%
Arlington $454,250 $513,500 -11.5%
Alexandria $458,750 $393,500 16.6%
District $421,000 $375,000 12.3%
Fairfax $415,000 $367,500 12.9%
Fairfax City $394,000 $295,000 33.6%
Montgomery $365,500 $325,000 12.5%
Pr. George’s $168,000 $162,006 3.7%

Source: RealEstate Business Intelligence

Active listings fell by more than 4,000 from January 2012 to 6,049. Townhouses are in the shortest supply, accounting for only 16.2 percent of listings. This is the lowest on record for this property type in the region dating back to 1997. There were 4,004 new listings in January, down 4.2 percent year-over-year.

The inventory shortage has driven down the median days on market, which has fallen to 32 days, 25 days fewer than January 2012.