- - Thursday, September 6, 2012

Because prices have fallen on new and existing homes in the region, some price-conscious buyers have found they don’t have to drive as far outside the Beltway anymore.

As prices climbed to record heights six to 10 years ago, buyers sought more affordable homes farther away. New-home sales were strong in counties down Interstate 95, including Stafford and Spotsylvania in Virginia. Up Interstate 270, you could find good sales in Maryland’s Frederick County. And some buyers drove out west as far as Berkeley County, W.Va., to find their new home.

Some of that motivation is gone these days, as homes have become more affordable near the Beltway. I think that’s one reason new-home sales in Spotsylvania have fallen so much, though similarly priced Frederick County is holding its own. Frederick is simply closer to the job centers.

In today’s charts, you can see that during the first half of 2012, the median price per square foot of a new home was less than $200 in eight area counties. In 2006, Charles, Spotsylvania and Stafford were the only three counties in the region priced below $200.

The real estate slowdown forced sellers of both existing and new homes to lower their prices after 2006. Of course, some buyers just shifted their expectations, buying condos or town homes instead of detached homes.

But by looking at the median price for a square foot of new home, regardless of home type, we can see that builders had to drop their prices after 2006 and now are raising them again in many counties.

Still, new homes remain more affordable than they were six years ago. New homes in Montgomery County, for instance, are priced at $204 per square foot this year, compared to $304 in 2006. Considering that the average new home sold there is 2,000 square feet, that’s a $200,000 price drop in six years.

Send email to csicks@gmail.com.