- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Some of the most popular markets in the D.C. metropolitan region are Prince George’s County and the Northern Virginia areas of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax. Surprisingly, however, sales dropped in these jurisdictions last month. In fact, home sales for the area fell 7 percent in March.

Is the market finally cooling down? Are home sales going to fall below 2004 levels, making 2005 the first year of the turnaround?

Not so fast.

It could be that home sales were down last month simply because there weren’t enough homes to buy.

In Northern Virginia, the inventory of homes for sale was down 44 percent at the end of March. And without homes for sale, sales figures aren’t going to go very high.

Homes that are placed on the market sell quickly amid multiple offers, frustrating many buyers. Buying a home today can take a long time, and it would take a flood of homes for sales to meet the current demand.

Sales were up in a few markets last month. Stafford County continues to enjoy strong sales, as does Prince William County. Both offer more home for less money, if you’re willing to make the drive.

The same holds true in Maryland. Prince George’s, which has been the most popular Maryland county, saw sales fall 11 percent last month. But, just as in Northern Virginia, lack of inventory could have something to do with it. Inventory in Prince George’s was down 24 percent in March.

Buyers who can’t find a home in Prince George’s seem to be looking south, just as buyers in Virginia are doing. Charles was the only Maryland county in the Washington region to post a sales increase in March. With a median price of only $250,000 last year, Charles County is an attractive option for buyers who can’t find homes inside the Beltway.

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

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