- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 2004

If each month’s data didn’t confirm it, I would have trouble believing that Washington home prices have climbed so high.

Even though prices have been rising dramatically for a few years, it’s hard to believe just how quickly they have risen. The adjacent charts show how much November home prices increased compared with last November.

Prices were up more than 20 percent, or even 30 percent, all over the region. (Note: The city of Alexandria is a small market, so the data for November may be considered an anomaly. Prices there actually are up 15 percent to 20 percent this year.)

When home prices shoot up that much in only one year — especially on top of double-digit-percentage increases in 2002 and 2003 — the market changes faster than many people can keep up with.

Before you go home shopping, check out www.homesdatabase.com to get a sense of prices in the communities you like. Remember that most of the homes you see online will be sold before you can pick up the phone, but you will learn what prices homes are demanding.

These charts present both median and average home prices. The median gives you an idea of the affordability of an area. It is less volatile, and therefore more useful, than average-price data. Average prices fluctuate more because they are swayed easily by a few very expensive sales.

The gap between average and median prices gives you an idea of the price disparity in an area. A big gap between the two means there are a lot of high-priced properties pushing up the average sales price.

The best example of this principle is the District, where there is a huge difference between the value of homes in Georgetown and Anacostia, for instance. A much smaller disparity, however, is found in counties such as Stafford, Frederick and Prince George’s.

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail (csicks@gmail.com).

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