- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

The first six months of 2004 saw a huge number of new homes built in the Washington area, a statement the adjacent chart might seem to contradict.

Low interest rates, low unemployment and the strongest seller’s market on record have made the past several years a home builder’s dream. But the homes they are building aren’t in Montgomery or Fairfax counties.

When I speak of the Washington region, I mean the core metropolitan area. However, much of today’s new-home construction is happening far from the Beltway, sometimes even in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Starting in the late 1990s, new-home construction began to drop off in places such as Montgomery and Fairfax because of a shortage of available land. Homes are still being built in inner counties such as these, but the numbers are declining. Frequently, condominiums are built. In Fairfax County, for example, 796 new condos were sold in the first half of the year, up 44 percent from last year’s 551.

In the mid-1990s, when the builders saw land becoming expensive and scarce close to the Beltway, they began focusing on counties such as Prince William, which is now the new-home-sales leader in the Washington area.

Some 2,671 new homes were sold there from January to June, nearly three times the sales seen in Montgomery County. That’s even more surprising when you compare the size of the two counties: Montgomery County covers 495 square miles, compared with only 348 in Prince William.

Despite growth in places such as Prince William County, overall new-home statistics for the metropolitan area are down this year. A steep drop in sales for June, in particular, can be attributed to some moratoriums on development in area counties, according to Allison Harteveld, research manager at the Meyers Group.

“A lot of the projects estimated to open this summer have been halted until the fall,” she says.

“Several area counties are delaying or blocking development because of a shortage of community infrastructure, including schools. Also, sales managers in some communities postponed until August openings that were originally scheduled for June. They felt the fall would provide a better sales climate than the summertime, when so many people are gone on vacation.”

Chris Sicks

The metropolitan area 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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