- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2004

Last month, sales of existing homes in the Washington metropolitan area barely outpaced last

year’s figures. There were 11,930 resales in July, an increase of less than 300 over last July’s 11,706.

This may not seem remarkable, but it is interesting. Most months of the year have outpaced 2003 by double-digit percentages.

Total sales for the first half of 2004 were 10 percent higher than last year, on pace to outsell the biggest sales year in history. Of course, 2003 beat the record set by 2002, and 2002 beat 2001’s record, and so on.

Why is it interesting that July sales were up by just 2 percent when the first half of the year was up 10 percent? Because I’m carefully watching for signs that the unbelievable sales boom of the past few years is beginning to cool off.

Declining sales activity — if it becomes a trend and not a one-month event — will indicate that the slow shift from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market has begun. Note that I didn’t say this process has begun; I’m just watching to see when it does.

The most unusual thing about July’s sales data is that the small increase over last year may be credited to only one area county. Sales in Prince William County were up 16 percent last month, while most of the other jurisdictions in the region saw flat or even declining sales.

It’s not surprising that resales are up in Prince William County. As the area’s new-home-sales leader, 25,000 homes were added to the housing stock of Prince William last year. Each year, there are simply more homes there than the year before, so resales are going to go up a lot.

— Chris Sicks

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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