- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2005

Even if you have been in the Washington area for just a short time, you probably know one basic rule about the region’s housing: The farther you go from the District, the more affordable the homes are.

In Virginia, however, you have to drive quite a distance before the prices drop very much. Even all the way down in Stafford County, the median home price in July was $383,500.

Maryland home buyers, on the other hand, will find that some of the most affordable options are also fairly close. Prince George’s County is very affordable, and for that reason, it has become a very competitive market.

For those willing to drive a little outside the Beltway, Frederick, Charles and Anne Arundel counties are both affordable and fairly close-in.

Although they lie in three different directions from the District, homes in each of these counties are priced almost exactly the same, as you can see in the charts at left.

Not only are homes less expensive when you get outside the Beltway, they also are easier to buy. Sales chances were 99 percent in Prince George’s County in July, compared to 66 in Charles and just 49 in Frederick and Anne Arundel.

(Sales chances are a measure of market activity, calculated by dividing home sales by inventory. The market tends to favor buyers when sales chances are less than 15 percent. When chances are greater than 20 percent, it is a seller’s market.)

Chances have fallen throughout the metropolitan area because inventory has risen in recent months. More homes are on the market now than in years.

In the charts, you will notice July’s inventory returned to 2001 levels, although sales are significantly higher than they were then.

Because of the higher inventory, homes are selling more slowly than they did in the spring.

However, the market hasn’t cooled off yet — homes are still selling much more quickly than they did five years ago. Just look at how the pace has changed in Charles County since 2001.

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

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