- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Washington-area home sales fell in September to their lowest point since February. This doesn’t mean themarket has suddenly cooled off, however.

September-February is the slowest period for home sales every year.

Total sales for September were 14 percent higher than in September 2003.

Cumulative sales for the first nine months of the year were up 8 percent, so the 14 percent increase for September is a sure sign that the demand for homes remains strong.

But the inventory of homes for sale has risen in the past couple of months, and that is making the market a little less competitive. This fall and winter, buyers will face less competition and a little less insanity than we saw in the summer.

That said, the market will still be more competitive and more insane than almost every fall and winter on record.

Looking again at the cumulative sales for January through September, it is easy to see that the outward migration of home buyers has continued. Some 61,000 homes were sold in the region’s core — Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince George’s and the District.

During the same period, 40,000 homes were sold in the outer counties: Spotsylvania, Stafford, Prince William, Loudoun, Frederick, Anne Arundel and Charles.

Although the inner core captures 60 percent of existing-home sales in the region, it has been losing ground for years. A decade ago, a full 70 percent of sales went to the core jurisdictions.

The change had been due to rising prices in the inner core and booming new-home construction in the outer circle. Buyers have been fleeing the high cost of homes in counties such as Fairfax and Montgomery, which has been caused in part by the limited supply and high price of land in such close-in communities.

Outlying counties such as Frederick, Loudoun and Prince William have lots of available land. That’s why the outer circle has captured 62 percent of new-home sales this year. And it’s that new-home construction that has caused the existing-home market to grow so much out there. The largest increases in existing-home sales this year have been in Frederick, Loudoun and Prince William counties.

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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