- The Washington Times - Friday, August 8, 2008

Just a few years ago, home buyers were in a tough spot. Sure, getting a mortgage was easy. Finding the right home at the right price was the hard part.

These days, home buyers have it a lot easier. There are plenty of homes at lower prices, and those who don’t want to pay inside-the-Beltway prices will find a lot to choose from in Maryland.

In particular, today’s charts look at Frederick, Anne Arundel and Charles counties. All three get you far enough from the District to be a retreat, while keeping your commute within reason. Or you can work closer to home.

“We have very stable employment in Anne Arundel County,” says Charlie Windsor, 2008 president of the Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors.

“We have Northrop Grumman, the state and federal governments, plus the [Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure] that is going to bring 10- to 12,000 jobs to the Fort Meade area,” Mr. Windsor says.

Stable employment in our region is what has made our real estate market much stronger than in other parts of the country. Home prices have come down, but they haven’t plummeted - and perhaps they have stopped falling.

“I think we are coming out of the bottom of the market,” Mr. Windsor says. “The bottom has been reached, and it’s a great time to buy. Anne Arundel has a large selection of inventory at any price range you want to look in.”

Buyers in Frederick, Charles and Anne Arundel also will enjoy sales chances that are lower than many other jurisdictions.

Dividing sales figures for the month by the inventory on the last day of the month results in a percentage, which I call “sales chances.” A figure below 20 percent indicates a buyer’s market. Higher figures mean we’re in a balanced market or a seller’s market.

Charles County, for instance, was one of the easiest places to buy a home in June. With 1,599 homes to choose from and only 128 sales all month, buyers could take their time without fear of another buyer snatching up their favorite home.

Frederick County also was great for buyers in June, with the additional advantage of affordability. The median sales price in Frederick was just $272,500 in June - down 12 percent compared to June 2007.

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

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