- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

Washington-area new-home sales were up 15 percent in the first half of the year, mostly due to a recent surge of sales in a handful of jurisdictions.

Sales of new homes have ridden a roller coaster in recent years. Due to shortages of available land and astronomic land prices, builders have been turning their attention to counties well outside the Beltway — mostly Virginia counties Spotsylvania, Fauquier and Orange.

That hasn’t changed. The Washington area still has an unmet need for housing, and homes are being built everywhere within a two-hour drive of the District. In Spotsylvania County, for example, sales for the first six months of the year totaled 558. That’s a huge increase over 2002, when only 195 homes were sold in the same period.

While builders’ attention turned outward, new-home sales dropped sharply close to the District. In the first years of this decade, sales were down in every jurisdiction that touches the Beltway.

Lately, however, builders have come back. The most dramatic sales change has occurred in Arlington and Alexandria, where condominium sales have revitalized a new-home market that was nearly asleep.

Two years ago, January-through-June sales in Arlington and Alexandria reached only 100. This year, they’ve hit 1,259.

Of those sales, 350 were in Arlington County — all but three of them condominiums. Most of the increase was seen in Alexandria, where a significant number of town homes was sold, along with more than 700 condos.

Howard County has also experienced a recent jump in new-home sales. Back in the 1998 and 1999, Howard County sales exceeded 1,000 during the first half of the year.

Then sales dropped, falling as low as 377 in 2003. This year, however, sales are twice that high, with 753 new homes sold in six months.

Unlike Arlington and Alexandria, builders are putting up single-family homes in Howard County — 304 of them by the end of June.

Like Arlington and Alexandria, prices haveleapt in Howard. The base asking price for a single-family home there is up 17 percent this year.

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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