- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

Despite the strongest buyer demand on record, new-home sales fell last year in the Washington metropolitan area. How could this be? Surely, builders want to sell homes, particularly at today’s prices.

The problem is the shortage of available land inside or near the Beltway. So new-home construction has moved beyond what used to be considered the metropolitan area.

Montgomery County is a good example. A decade ago, nearly 4,000 homes were built there each year. It was a popular place to live, as it is today.

As more homes were built, though, there was less land for building. In 2000, new-home sales fell below 3,000 in the county. Last year, that number dropped to 1,563. Similar decreases also have occurred in Prince George’s, Howard and Fairfax counties.

Sales even dropped last year in Loudoun and Prince William counties — areas that had been among the fastest-growing in the nation just recently.

The only area where new-home sales really went up last year was the one area with no available land: Arlington and Alexandria. These communities have been built up for decades, so there is little land left for new-home construction.

What do you build in such a place? Condos.

Of the 1,027 new homes sold in these two communities last year, 850 were condominiums. There also were 164 town homes, which makes sense. Only 13 new single-family homes were built, all in Arlington.

Because land is so scarce in Arlington and Alexandria, new homes there don’t come cheap. Those 13 single-family homes? They sold for a median base price of $1.1 million. The town homes in Alexandria went for a median base price of $851,000.

The most expensive new square footage in the region last year was in Arlington. The median condominium there in 2004 was just 900 square feet but priced at $420,000. That works out to $467 per square foot — even more expensive than the median condo in the District, which went for $433 per square foot.

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail (csicks@gmail.com).

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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