- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

When you add them all up, a lot of homes can be sold in a slow year.

Nearly 75,000 existing homes were sold in the Washington metropolitan area in 2007. That may sound like a lot, and it is as a raw number.

However, it was the slowest sales year since 1998.

During the past decade, we moved from a slow buyer’s market into a fast-paced seller’s market and back again. The peak of the seller’s market was 2004, when nearly 130,000 existing homes were sold in the area.

The interesting thing about housing is that it isn’t like televisions or automobiles. When sales of those products slow, manufacturers make fewer of them.

However, the housing stock never shrinks. Instead, it grows a little more each year as new homes are built.

So the number of sales is a reflection of how many people feel like playing musical houses in a given year. In 2004, that game was very popular. Last year, not so much.

View this week’s chart (download pdf)

While sales were down throughout the region last year, a few jurisdictions had a very slow year.

Sales were down 25 percent in Prince William County, 31 percent in Charles County and 41 percent in Prince George’s County.

In the District, however, sales were down 6 percent. Alexandria was down 9 percent, and Arlington sales fell by only 4 percent.

If you look at a regional map, you’ll notice that those three jurisdictions are the absolute center of the metropolitan area. Even though they are the most expensive communities in the entire region, they also are popular with buyers because that’s where you find the most jobs, transportation and cultural attractions.

The advantage that Prince William, Charles and Prince George’s have, however, is that they currently have a huge selection of homes with prices lower than you would have found two years ago. Buyers motivated by price more than proximity will find a large selection and eager sellers if they shop in those three counties.

Chris Sicks

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

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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