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Homeowners looking to sell could be seeing a market meant for them as low inventories of for-sale homes and limited new residential construction have helped increase asking prices regionally and around the nation.

“Inventory has been going down for several years. At the end of 2012 we were down from the end of 2011,” said economist Stephen Fuller, who heads George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis. “What that’s done is it’s driven up prices and lowered the time [sale homes are] on the market.”

Northern Virginia has seen a 13 percent increase in the average selling prices of homes this past December compared to last December 2011, Fuller said.

“The new construction has been a little slow, too,” he said. “It hasn’t picked up as quickly as the re-sale [of existing homes]. As a result, there are fewer houses on the market.”

Local realtors say the low inventory and higher selling prices are encouraging to homeowners looking to sell. However, some remain wary of the market.

“I think sellers are still of the mindset that they can’t get the price they want if they sell now,” said Re/Max Executives Real Estate Agent Cathy Baumbusch, who manages home sales in Fairfax, Springfield and Alexandria. “They tend to rely on websites that don’t always show an accurate estimate of home values instead of contacting a realtor. Even the homeowners that are upside down [on their mortgages] don’t realize that they may qualify for a short sale and not have to be in debt for the difference... Doing a short sale is a much better alternative to bankruptcy or foreclosure.”

Baumbusch said she’s seen a 17 percent decrease in the time homes spend on the market and is forecasting a robust spring housing market for sellers.

Real Estate Broker Nancy Harvey Steorts of Long and Foster in McLean, said, “Some sellers are sill ambivalent about the market and are choosing to renovate instead of selling.”

Nationally, news headlines claim the housing market has finally turned the corner from its burst under the subprime mortgage meltdown of 2008. From December 2012 to present, the national housing market has seen 13 months appreciation. Economists, like Fuller, say home sales are being bolstered, in part by, continuing low interest rates.

“Homes are selling much quicker than they usually do during this time of year,” said Re/Max Allegiance Realtor Brian Block, who lists and sells homes in Fairfax County, Alexandria, Arlington County and Washington, D.C. “During the last few months the market in Fairfax County, as well as throughout much of Northern Virginia, has really swayed much more in favor of sellers. Inventory is extremely low. In many areas, there is less than a two month supply of homes on the market. Agents are telling me stories every day about bidding wars and multiple contracts.”

Just this past week, Block said one agent got eight offers by Monday on a home in Springfield he’d put on the market two days earlier. Another agent told him their client lost out as one of 11 offers on a property.

Fuller said buyers and sellers should expect 2013 to be a competitive year in the housing market.

“We think ’13 is going to be better than ’12 and we think it’s just going to go gangbusters in ’14 and ’15,” he said.

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com