- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

March sales were down in the District, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, but not by much. It may have simply been a fluke, so don’t panic and conclude that the market is about to tank. We’re still a long way from that.

The District, Montgomery and Prince George’s make up the northeastern half of the region’s core. On the Virginia side, Fairfax County, Arlington County and Alexandria are also very popular markets. But while these three Virginia communities are somewhat similar to one another, the other side of the Potomac holds a lot of variety.

Montgomery is a well-off, established county with a shortage of land and prices that have reached the stratosphere. Prices in such popular communities as Bethesda have reached levels unimaginable just a few years ago.

The District is the region’s hub, a city of multimillion-dollar mansions and condominiums. Yet there are still a few affordable neighborhoods and many fixer-uppers waiting for the right buyers. Despite a competitive market and plenty of interest from buyers, home sales don’t happen as quickly in the District as they do in other popular communities.

And then there is Prince George’s, the once-overlooked county that still has some open land to draw home builders and offers buyers the best possible combination of proximity and affordability.

That magic mix has made Prince George’s County a popular destination for home shoppers. As a result, homes there are selling very quickly. Looking at the adjacent charts, you’ll notice that homes sold in March spent only 35 days on the market, compared with 93 days in 2001.

Contrast this with the District: Homes there are selling more quickly than they did in 2001, but have improved only from 55 days to 45.

So why were sales down in March? It’s too soon to say for sure, but it may be a combination of high prices finally making buyers skittish and the shortage of inventory and abundance of competition making it difficult for many buyers to actually seal a deal.

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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