- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 13, 2004

Washington-area new-home sales were flat in the first quarter, besting 2003 by only 1 percent.

About 6,900 new homes were sold during the first three months of the year, which is respectable but far short of the sales seen in the late 1990s, when quarterly sales regularly exceeded 8,000.

New homes are still being built in the Washington region, that’s for sure.

Low interest rates, low unemployment and the strongest buyer competition on record have made the past several years a home seller’s dream. New-home builders are definitely getting their share from this sales climate — but not nearby.

The Washington area tracked in this column focuses on the core of the metropolitan area, while much of the construction today is happening far from the Beltway, even in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Starting in the late 1990s, new-home construction began to drop in counties such as Montgomery and Fairfax because of a shortage of available land.

Homes are still being built in those counties, but they are more frequently condos. In Fairfax County, for example, 518 new condos were sold in the first quarter, up 115 percent from last year’s 241.

Builders saw the land becoming scarce in the mid-1990s, so they began focusing on such counties as Prince William, which is now the new-home-sales leader in the Washington area. There were 1,550 new homes sold there from January to March, three times the sales seen in Montgomery County.

You have to look back only 12 years to see how much things have changed. In the first quarter of 1992, Montgomery sold 1,200 new homes, against Prince William’s 660.

There just aren’t as many places to go in Maryland without running into Annapolis, Baltimore or a lot of water. Counties such as Frederick, however, are doing very well. Sales there were up 19 percent in the first quarter, the same as in Prince William County.

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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