- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

Every jurisdiction in the Washington metropolitan area experienced an extremely active real estate market during the past five years. That housing boom has just recently slowed down, but it has done so throughout the region.

Despite being bound together into one large real estate market, each county, city and neighborhood in our region has its own character and its own market conditions.

Consider the three communities east of the Potomac River that touch the Beltway: Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia.

Although they share borders — and some neighborhoods that straddle borders — these three jurisdictions could be the least similar of any three in the region.

The District, obviously, is the core. It is unique in America, with all the issues of federal property, home rule, voting rights and taxes that go along with being the seat of the nation’s government.

In November, the District’s real estate market cooled down with the rest of the area’s market. Sales chances there were 28 percent — the same percentage as for the overall metro area. Home sales were down 18 percent, but the inventory of unsold homes was up 148 percent.

Montgomery County just to the north is similar to the District in price alone. Homes are very expensive in both jurisdictions, but Montgomery County has industry, rural sections and enough remaining land to continue to support a new-homes industry.

Montgomery is usually one of the most popular, and therefore competitive, communities in the region. Sales chances there were 34 percent in November. Just two counties were more competitive for buyers: Charles and Prince George’s.

Prince George’s County has a new-homes market the same size as Montgomery’s and has experienced a dramatic couple of years in the resale market. The county’s recent success is mostly because of affordability. Nowhere else can you buy a reasonably priced home so close to the District.

While metro-area sales slowed 18 percent in November, sales were down just 4 percent in Prince George’s County.

Such success is having an effect, however, on home prices there. Because Prince George’s County has been so popular among buyers, prices there rose 73 percent in the past two years.

In Montgomery County, prices rose 47 percent in the same period.

Chris Sicks

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

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