9 months of housing-market supply -- for now

It would take nine months to sell all the homes on the market in the Baltimore region at the pace people are buying these days, in case you were wondering.

That's simple math. What's trickier -- naturally -- is knowing how long it will take to sell a particular house. Or whether the months' supply is headed up or down.

Six months of supply is usually the rule of thumb for a market balanced between buyers and sellers. Not surprising that it would be higher than that (advantage, buyers) in January, part of the slow season.

But the other factor at play is the temporary slump in foreclosures for sale -- something that's expected to reverse in the not-too-distant future, now that the bank settlement over robo-signing is done. The Mortgage Bankers Association says foreclosure processing could initially slow further as big mortgage servicers put settlement requirements into place, but that it should speed up afterward.

And on top of that, you've got both would-be buyers and would-be sellers sitting things out for now. When they choose to get off the sidelines will affect the months of supply figure, too.

Some homeowners are waiting for prices to go up before they sell, either because they can't or don't want to accept today's prices. A lot of possibly-future buyers seem to fall into one of two groups, too: Can't afford it now or not willing to pay today's prices.

Among renters who weighed in on a recent poll, just over a quarter said they're renting because they can't afford to buy a house and just under a quarter said it's because they don't want to buy right now. (Another quarter of participants said the No. 1 reason they rent is flexibility -- you can pick up and leave more easily.)

Where do you stand? Are you on the sidelines of buying, selling or both -- and if so, why?

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