- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

In the third quarter of 2004, the Washington-area real estate market calmed down a bit. The number of homes on the market rose, and the number of homes sold decreased moderately each month. As a result, sales chances fell from such highs as 112 percent in March and 100 percent in May to more reasonable figures, such as 65 percent to 73 percent.

Of course, what is reasonable for 2004 is quite different from what it was a few years ago. In 2001, 65 was the highest sales chances got all year. In 1999, 31 was the peak. And in 1996, sales chances never exceeded 12 percent.

Sales chances are a measurement of supply and demand. They measure market activity, calculated by dividing home sales by inventory. In the adjacent charts, you can compare the chances for this year with previous years, as well as compare the region’s primary jurisdictions to one another.

While other jurisdictions were cooling off in the third quarter, Prince George’s County remained on fire. Just a few years ago, in 2000 and throughout the 1990s, Prince George’s County and nearby Charles County were always the least competitive markets in the region. When sales chances were 38 in Montgomery, they were 18 in Prince George’s. When chances in Montgomery climbed to 51, Prince George’s made it only to 26.

However, due to the success of counties such as Montgomery, Prince George’s is now the most competitive market in the region. Demand for homes in Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and Montgomery has pushed prices in those markets to terribly high levels. As a result, buyers are seeking more-affordable homes, often in distant counties such as Stafford and Frederick.

Prince George’s is the most competitive because it offers a combination no other county can — a market that straddles the Beltway where the median price for a home is only $240,000. And that’s why Prince George’s County was the hottest market of all in September.

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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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