- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

The year’s most dramatic leap in new-home sales is happening in two jurisdictions with very little vacant land — Arlington and Alexandria. Sales in these communities are up 600 percent over last year.

To some extent, this leap in sales demonstrates the kind of market Washington-area home builders are dealing with today. Markets such as Alexandria, Arlington, Bethesda and Capitol Hill are the most popular among buyers. These also happen to be the areas with the least land to build on.

That’s why tear-downs and condominium projects make up almost all of the new homes in these communities. Of the 413 new homes sold in Arlington and Alexandria this year, only 12 have been single-family homes. There have been 88 town homes sold, and the rest are condominiums.

Because communities such as these are so popular, builders can sell their products for top dollar. The median price for a condominium in Arlington this year is $408,600. That’s a stunning $440 per square foot. Prices are similar in the District. But if you drive outside the Beltway, condos are selling for only $192 per square foot in Prince William County. And they go for $132 in Prince George’s County.

That price differential also affects condo size. The average condo in Arlington is only 988 square feet this year, while condos in Prince George’s County average 1,287, and in Prince William, they are averaging 1,775 square feet — as large as some single-family homes.

Overall, new-home sales in the metropolitan area are down 1 percent this year. Compared with last decade, sales are down even more. This isn’t because of a lack of buyer demand. Demand is higher than it has ever been. But builders today are putting up homes in counties outside the traditional Washington metropolitan area — often as distant as Jefferson County, W.Va., and Adams County, Pa.

Chris Sicks

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