- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

One of the biggest real estate stories of 2005 has been how popular Prince George’s County has become with area home buyers.

As recently as 2000, Prince George’s was one of the slowest real estate markets in the Washington area. In September 2000, sales chances there were just 26 percent, compared with 54 percent in Montgomery County and 67 percent in Northern Virginia.

In recent years, however, the market in Prince George’s County has not only caught up with that in Northern Virginia, but surpassed it in popularity with area buyers.

Look at the charts at left and compare figures for Prince George’s County with those for Alexandria and Fairfax County. Only the Potomac River separates Prince George’s from those Virginia jurisdictions, yet they have experienced a markedly different real estate market of late.

Take, for example, the sales-chance figures.

Sales chances are my way of measuring the level of competition in the real estate market. Dividing sales figures for the month by the inventory on the last day of the month results in a percentage. A figure below 20 percent indicates a buyer’s market. Higher figures mean we’re in a transitional or seller’s market.

In September, sales chances in Prince George’s County were 69 percent — the highest in the region.

By contrast, chances have plummeted recently in Northern Virginia. In September, sales chances were just 29 percent in Fairfax County. This happened because inventory expanded dramatically in recent months, while sales slowed.

The inventory of homes for sale has increased in Prince George’s, too, but sales there remain strong. I believe this is thanks to the most attractive aspect of the Prince George’s housing stock: low prices.

In September, the median home price there was $310,000. Even though that’s 29 percent higher than in September 2004, it is inexpensive by Washington-area standards.

To find lower-priced homes, you have to drive south on Interstate 95 all the way to Spotsylvania County or north on I-95 to Baltimore County.

Nowhere but Prince George’s County can offer proximity to the District at an affordable price.

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

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