- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2005

Maryland vs. Virginia. No, it’s not the NCAA finals — it’s a real estate market that is shifting westward and changing year by year.

A decade ago, Maryland captured the majority of area home sales. In 1996, 25,600 existing homes were sold on the Maryland side of the Washington metropolitan area, while the Virginia side sold 20,000.

In each subsequent year, however, the gap narrowed. Then, in 2002, Virginia took the lead. In 2004, Virginia sales led Maryland sales, 61,300 to 58,000.

With this shift have come other changes. The largest, most-expensive and fastest-selling markets today are all in Virginia. As the adjacent charts show, the four most-expensive jurisdictions in the region are all in Virginia.

Virginia’s sales growth is being fueled by some counties that once were considered rural satellites instead of suburbs, but the demand for affordable homes has caused Prince William and Stafford counties to boom. Sales in these counties are up 15 percent this year. Last year, sales in Prince William County were up 19 percent.

Maryland did nab one record on the charts: most-competitive market. Prince George’s County has experienced a remarkable couple of years, as buyers stunned by sticker shock have been drawn to the affordable homes they find there.

But there aren’t enough homes on the market to satisfy the demand. As a result, sales chances are higher in Prince George’s County than anywhere else. When sales chances climb as high as 131 percent, buyers face an extreme shortage of homes from which to choose, and sellers can dictate terms to buyers.

(Sales chances are calculated by dividing sales figures for the month by the inventory on the last day of the month. When chances are below 20 percent it is a buyer’s market, which we haven’t seen since 1998.)

Such a high sales-chance figure is a dramatic change. A decade ago, no area market had lower sales chances than Prince George’s County. Back then, of course, it was a buyer’s market, and it was easy to buy a home anywhere you wished. But in today’s extreme seller’s market, close-in bargains such as those found in Prince George’s are a rare commodity.

Chris Sicks

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; and the District.

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