- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

Washington-area resales were up 3 percent last month, a modest increase that could be easily misunderstood.

First off, the sales market has definitely not cooled off. The sales figures may not be shooting up as fast as area home prices, but there is an explanation for this.

Compared to March, sales actually fell in many area counties, including some popular markets like Prince William and Prince George’s. This is unusual, because April is almost always a busier month than March.

Sales did rise in the region’s most-popular communities, such places as Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery.

This reinforces the tenet about location, location, location. Despite unheard-of levels of competition and insane prices, people want to live in these areas more than any others.

But sales didn’t rise very much in even these popular communities. Why? Because there aren’t enough homes to buy.

On any given day, the inventory of homes for sale is at a record low — not because people aren’t selling their homes, but simply because they are selling so quickly.

This is why April sales were only up 3 percent over last year. If there were enough homes on the market last month, sales surely would have beat last year by 10 or 15 percent.

Here’s another way of communicating just how dramatic this year has been: 2003 sales were very strong. The market was hot, pushing total sales for the year 9 percent higher than in 2002. Because 2003 sales were so good, 2004 faces a stiff challenge to even match last year.

Yet, sales in the first four months beat 2003 by 7 percent. If you look at some individual counties, this year’s sales appear even more dramatic.

Look at the charts for Prince George’s and Spotsylvania counties, for example.

Sales in Prince George’s were up last year, but they have jumped 9 percent this year — more than most Maryland counties.

Buyers have been drawn to Prince George’s because it is close to the District and affordable.

Affordability is also attracting buyers to Spotsylvania County.

The flood of buyers heading south on Interstate 95 pushed sales in Spotsylvania to over 1,100 by the end of April — a 25 percent increase over last year and the region’s largest jump in sales this year.

Chris Sicks

The statistics in this story reflect a metropolitan area that includes the Maryland counties of Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Howard, Charles and Frederick; the Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania and Stafford; the city of Alexandria; and the District.

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