- The Washington Times - Friday, January 8, 2010

The hottest half of the Washington-area real estate market is found west of the Potomac River. Homes have been selling faster and more readily in Virginia, but Maryland isn’t giving up without a fight.

Today’s charts compare Maryland jurisdictions with those in Virginia using November data. One of the most significant differences you’ll notice is how quickly homes were sold. Existing homes that were sold in November in Maryland’s Charles, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties spent twice as long on the market as homes in Northern Virginia.

Prince William County, Va., was the fastest-selling jurisdiction in the entire region, which is remarkable. Just two years earlier, resales in Prince William were taking 136 days to sell because the market was flooded with them.

In the past two years, however, prices fell so sharply in Prince William that buyers (including many investors) have turned Prince William County into a brisk and competitive market.

With homes selling so quickly there, it shouldn’t surprise us that sales chances in Prince William County were the highest in the area in November, at 27 percent. You’ll notice that Arlington tied Prince William, and that Fairfax was close behind.

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 balanced market or a seller’s market.

By comparison, chances were only 16 percent in Prince George’s County in November, even though homes there are priced about the same as those in Prince William. The level of buyer competition hasn’t been as strong in Prince George’s because the inventory is still so high there.

However, sales there jumped last year, rising 74 percent compared to 2008. Assuming that level of buyer interest continues into 2010, we could see chances rising in Prince George’s as improved sales whittle away at the backlog of unsold homes.

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

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