- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

Although area home builders aren’t selling record numbers of homes, the homes they are selling are going for record prices.

During the past several years, Washington-area home builders have struggled with a shortage of available land.

With little developable land inside or even close to the Beltway, and with a persistent demand for new housing, builders have been putting up new homes far from the District.

At the same time, the crushing pressure of demand from home buyers has forced up the prices of existing homes, making a new home in Spotsylvania or Frederick County even more attractive to a cost-conscious buyer.

That’s why I can bet that you have a relative, friend or co-worker who has bought a huge, brand-new home for less than you paid for your cozy, dated town house.

Am I right? Sure, they have to drive 60 to 90 minutes each way to get to work, but they believe it’s worth it. Thousands of others have driven south on Interstate 95, west on the Dulles Toll Road, north on Interstate 270 or east on U.S. Route 50 — all of them pursuing the promise of low prices and big homes.

The only problem is this: The demand for housing in once-distant counties such as these has caused prices to rise dramatically, pushing the next ring of affordable development outward as far as West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In Frederick County, for example, the median base sales price of a new town house was $325,450 in July. I repeat: For a town home. In Frederick County.

That’s a 38 percent increase over July 2003, when you could buy a town house there for almost $100,000 less.

Every area jurisdiction has seen double-digit price growth over the past year, except for places such as Arlington, Alexandria and the District, which sell so few new houses that statistics fluctuate wildly.

Just look over the adjacent charts, and I promise your jaw will drop. Remember, these are the builders’ base prices, before options are added.

Yikes.

— 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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