Area home sales slowed somewhat this summer, with 56 percent of homes going on the market in July under contract within 30 days, according to data from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems. The rate was down somewhat from May's 64 percent but falls within the 55 percent to 60 percent considered normal.

The current metric shows homebuyers are still cautious, but confident enough to get back in the market, said David Howell, executive vice president of McEnearney & Associates in Great Falls.

As the housing boom in Northern Virginia was peaking in May 2006, 94 percent of homes were under contract in 30 days. By May 2009 that had dropped to 23 percent as the market went from "irrational exuberance to irrational pessimism," Howell said.

Howell tracks Northern Virginia, Loudoun County, Montgomery County and the District and said all four jurisdictions have seen this rate return to normal. - Dean Bartoli Smith