- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2000

Home sales in Prince George's County rose 6 percent this year the highest in the region because the county had more houses for sale than neighboring jurisdictions, brokers say.

The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, which tracks home sales in Prince George's and Northern Virginia, projects 9,839 homes will be sold in Prince George's this year, up from 8,868 sales in 1999.

By comparison, home sales in Northern Virginia will rise less than 1 percent in 2000, primarily due to dwindling inventory, the association says.

A limited housing stock is also cited as the reason for flat sales in the District and Montgomery County, according to the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors.

Home sales are used to measure economic health. Economists say high home-sale prices push up property values for existing homeowners.

Sales in the region have risen steadily for three years, buoyed by the strong economy. Realtors now say there are signs the market is cooling because of the dwindling inventory. The limited housing stock has also pushed up prices, shutting many potential home buyers out of the market, according to brokers.

Marianne Bossier, an agent for for Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. in Camp Springs, says sales are up in Prince George's because buyers have more choices than in other areas.

"We have inventory here. That isn't the case in the District or Northern Virginia," she says.

Julia Kriss, chairman of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, agrees. She says sales are flat in the rest of the region because too few houses have been put up for sale.

"Listings have consistently lagged behind 1999 levels through the year between 35 and 40 percent," Ms. Kriss says.

The stock of available houses in Prince George's could be threatened. The county Planning Board is considering restricting building in some areas because schools are too crowded.

Thirty elementary schools and three high schools are projected to be overcrowded by 2005, planners say. When that happens, development in the neighborhoods near the schools must stop, according to county planning guidelines.

Home sales are flat in the rest of the region. The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors projects 24,888 houses will be sold in Northern Virginia this year, an increase of less than 1 percent from 1999's figures.

The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors says 5,732 homes were sold in the District from January through November 2000, compared with 5,423 sales during the same period in 1999.

In Montgomery County, 11,592 houses were sold through November, compared with 11,697 sales during the first 11 months of 1999, the association says.

Both groups say prices rose in the areas with the tightest inventory.

In Northern Virginia, for example, the average sale price for a home in 2000 is $249,297, a 4.5 percent increase from the average price in 1999.

"It's classic supply and demand. When demand is high and supply is limited, prices rise," says Brooke Myers, president of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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