- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

If you are shopping for an affordable home, don’t shop in Alexandria, Arlington County or Fairfax County. And be sure to skip these communities if you don’t want to compete with a lot of other eager buyers.

If you want to live close to the District, in communities with established infrastructure and plenty of character, the expensive and competitive markets of Alexandria, Arlington or Fairfax might be perfect for you.

These three areas are consistent record setters in several categories. Month after month, these jurisdictions are the most competitive, most expensive, and fastest-selling in the Washington region.

These factors are all related, of course. When an area is desirable, the supply of homes becomes limited, buyers compete aggressively and prices inevitably increase. Close-in Northern Virginia is a desirable place to live because workers have a short commute to the District, two large airports are close by, unemployment is low compared with other areas, and the schools are highly rated.

Factors such as these are making Arlington County the regional leader in several categories.

This year, Arlington is on track to unseat the District as the most expensive community in the region based on average price. Arlington has also been the most competitive community in the region this year. No other jurisdiction has so many buyers vying for so few homes.

Because of these factors, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax will be popular even in a slow real estate market.

In 1998, homes in Alexandria were staying on the market for an average of 100 days. I know that sounds like a long time, and it is. It’s a lifetime compared with July’s 16-day average.

Out in Stafford County in 1998, the average time on the market was 173 days, and it was 231 in Fauquier County.

So the point is this: Even in a slow market, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax will still be faster than the other markets.

When the local real estate market begins to slow down in the next year or two, as it probably will, the outlying counties will slow down first and the fastest. Close-in Northern Virginia will also cool off, eventually, but it will remain the hottest part of the metropolitan area.

Chris Sicks

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