January 1st is more than just New Years day. It's also the day that many listings expire. Think about it. Sellers often say to their Realtor, “If it hasn't sold by the end of the year I'm going to take it off the market“. Conversely, Realtors often set listing dates to neat, easy to remember dates, like the end of the month or year. With the slower market, that means more listings have reached their expiration date before selling. A lot of Sellers will be re-listing their properties with their agents. And some will be switching agents to see if that helps get the job done. But luckily for Buyers the NWMLS made a procedural change not too long ago that makes it so that Buyers and agents can more easily determine if a property is new to the market, or just been relisted. It's called the CDOM, which stands for Cumulative Days On Market. That is the total cumulative days a property has been on the market, regardless of price reductions, expirations, or even switching agents. A property has to be off the market for 90 consecutive days to “reset the clock” to zero days. Even then, if an agent looks up the property history they can tell when it was listed and for how much and when price reductions or when offers were accepted and closed or not (STI or pending). Just keep in mind this doesn't show up on the Client Detail Report that most agents email or print out for their clients.
So if you are shopping for a home in early 2008, ask your agent to confirm the CDOM and property history on any property you are about to make an offer on. It could affect how you strategize your price and offer specifics.
As a side note for Buyers new to the process, you'll know if it is a new or re-listed property by the MLS number. All 2008 new and re-listed properties will begin with the number 28 and be 8 digits long. And yes, the NWMLS has a regulation prohibiting agents from canceling and re-listing properties just to appear to be new from the number.