- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2005

Although one Maryland county is giving them some competition, the Northern Virginia

communities of Fairfax County, Arlington County and the city of Alexandria remain the most popular places to live in the Washington area.

Sure, there are many other popular areas and neighborhoods, but during the past five years, nowhere else have homes sold as quickly or prices risen as rapidly.

I’m not saying Bethesda; Capitol Hill; and Waldorf, Md., aren’t popular. They are. However, Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria have consistently been at the top of the market in nearly every category.

The sales chances for these jurisdictions were incredible throughout 2004. The only other market in the region with chances over 100 percent in December was Prince George’s County.

(Sales chances are a measure of market activity calculated by dividing home sales by inventory.) When sales chances are that high, buyers are battling fiercely for a limited pool of homes. And that pushes prices up, fast.

I just spoke to a woman who bought a one-bedroom, one-bath condo in Arlington four years ago for $40,000. She fixed it up some and is selling it this week for $170,000. Such appreciation isn’t typical, but it isn’t uncommon, either.

Because prices have shot up so dramatically in Northern Virginia, condominiums like that woman’s have become the most popular type of home.

Even where they don’t make up a majority of homes for sale, condos are the most sought-after type of housing. In Alexandria, for example, 46 percent of the homes on the market at the end of December were condos (81 of 175).

Condos made up 52 percent of Alexandria home sales in December, and it’s easy to see why many buyers can’t afford anything else.

In Alexandria, 87 percent of town homes and single-family homes were priced over $500,000 in December. Only 11 percent of Alexandria condos were listed at more than $500,000.

Despite high prices and cramped quarters, some families with children would rather buy a condo in Arlington or Alexandria than a detached home in Fredericksburg, Va. People simply want to live inside the Beltway, and many will make significant sacrifices to do so.

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

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; andthe District.

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