- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Although home sales took a sharp hit in Northern Virginia last year, the area should be able to

recover at least as quickly as the rest of the Washington metropolitan region.

Last year was tough on home sellers, and this was particularly true in Northern Virginia. Home sales were down 26 percent last year in the combined market of Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria. By contrast, sales fell 15 percent in the District and 19 percent in Montgomery County.

Homes sold in Northern Virginia in December took 91 days to sell, compared to 69 days in the District and 66 days in Prince George’s County.

In Fairfax County, the median price of homes sold in December was 7 percent lower than in December 2005.

So, after all that bad news, why would anyone expect Northern Virginia to do well in near future?

Jobs.

A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics concluded that Fairfax County is now the second core area of employment for the region.

Between 1990 and 2005, the Washington metropolitan area gained 229,000 professional and business services jobs, but a full 45 percent of those jobs were created in Fairfax County.

In fact, the growth of these white-collar jobs in Fairfax exceeded the combined growth in the District, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Loudoun.

That’s why Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria were the most competitive jurisdictions in the region throughout the 1990s. Buyers there faced more competition from other buyers than anywhere else. As a result, home prices rose dramatically. Arlington and Fairfax for years have been the most expensive jurisdictions in the region.

However, when prices blew through the roof a few years ago, home shoppers became more price-conscious. And that made Northern Virginia less competitive than other jurisdictions.

In December, homes sold more quickly up in Baltimore County than they did in Northern Virginia.

Now that prices have come down a bit, it seems likely that all those good-paying jobs in Fairfax County will keep the Northern Virginia real estate market moving at a steady clip.

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

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