- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 7, 2005

New-home sales are on the rise again in the Washington area as home builders shift their focus to condominiums and outlying counties such as Spotsylvania.

Sales of new homes have been depressed in recent years, due to a shortage of land to build on. As a result, builders have been forced to either build a lot of homes on a small parcel of land or seek land as far away as West Virginia and Delaware.

Now, sales are rebounding modestly, as builders turn their attention to condominium construction and the development of land in areas that were once considered too far away. Sales for the first four months of the year were up 8 percent compared with 2004.

However, Maryland and Virginia are having very different experiences this year, as the accompanying charts show.

Note how Virginia sales have generally grown since 2001, while sales in Maryland have fallen. Land shortages are largely to blame.

Maryland has a water boundary to the east that limits how far development can spread from the District. The Virginia suburbs, lacking such a boundary, seem to stretch on and on, out Interstate 66 and down I-95.

Compare Montgomery County to Spotsylvania County, for example.

With little land available for residential development, new-home sales in Montgomery have been in decline for more than a decade.

Sales in Spotsylvania this year, however, are the highest in history.

However, not all of the new-home growth in Virginia is in distant communities.

Sales in Alexandria are up 113 percent this year.

Almost all of those homes have been condominiums, which is about the only thing you can build in a small city with virtually no available land.

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

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