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Here’s the good news: The number of homes for sale in the first half of 2014 will likely be higher, following one of the worst years in recent memory for inventory.

Real-estate analysts track the months’ supply of homes for sale by comparing the number of active listings with the number of pending sales — homes under contracts that have not yet closed. A balanced market is generally one with a four- to six-month supply of homes for sale.

This past March, the supply in all three counties hit its lowest level in at least a decade: one month in King, less than a month in Snohomish and 1.7 months in Pierce, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Veteran real-estate agents said they’ve never seen anything like it.

“The first four months of this year were the best time to be a seller over the past decade,” said Ann Pierson, a John L. Scott broker in Bellevue.

“Literally if anything was on the market it was going to sell.”

In Bellevue’s Somerset neighborhood, one of the region’s most sought-after for the local schools, Pierson said last March she’d have about 200 buyers come through on the first weekend she showed a house, with as many as eight bidders.

Early 2013 was the exact opposite of late 2008, which was a buyers’ market: The supply of homes and condominiums peaked at 10 months in King County and 11.3 months in Snohomish County, according to the MLS. Pierce County had an 11-month supply.

Since March’s record low, the supply of homes for sale in the Seattle metro area has steadily climbed.

Not coincidentally, the rate of bidding wars has plunged, according to data from Seattle-based Redfin, an online real-estate brokerage.

In November, about 43 percent of offers submitted by Redfin agents for home shoppers faced competition, down from 75 percent in April.

For the next five years, inventory should gradually grow, Pierson said.

The rebound in home prices has lifted thousands of homeowners out of negative equity, freeing them to sell their houses and wipe out mortgage debt. In King County, one of out six homes with a mortgage was in negative equity at the end of September, down from a peak of one in three in March 2012, according to Seattle-based Zillow, the online real-estate marketplace.

Also, new-home construction is edging back up. Through October, there were 7,560 permits for new single-family homes in the Seattle metro area. That’s up 9 percent from last year, though still well below the roughly 16,000 single-family units added annually before the housing bubble burst.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or On Twitter @sbhatt