- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Since the Washington-metropolitan housing market slowed down last fall, every area county has seen home sales decline. While this decline has been significant in every market, some have slowed more than others.

Interestingly, there has been somewhat of a switch in the market dynamics of the region. Last year, Virginia counties were generally the most competitive, with homes selling more quickly there than in Maryland. Prince George’s County was the one exception, which was even more competitive than the Virginia markets.

However, when the market slowed down in the fall, Virginia slowed more than Maryland. Last month, the slowest counties in the Washington area were Loudoun, Stafford, Spotsylvania and Prince William. All four of these lie outside the Beltway, where sales were strong in recent years due to affordable home prices.

On the Maryland side, there are three counties outside the Beltway that are now more competitive than their Virginia counterparts.

To the northwest, there is Frederick County. To the east, Anne Arundel County, and to the southeast, there is Charles County. These Maryland counties were more popular with buyers last month than any Virginia market, and I believe price had something to do with it.

Homes in each of these counties are priced almost exactly the same, as you can see in the charts on the preceding page. These prices are lower than in every Virginia county in the Greater Washington region except Spotsylvania, and I think this is causing some home buyers to choose Maryland over Virginia.

Sales chance figures seem to bear this out. Chances were higher in Maryland than in Virginia last month — exactly the reverse of what we saw in February of last year.

Sales chances are a measure of market activity, calculated by dividing homesales 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.

Last month, every Maryland county in our area was still a seller’s market, while most Virginia counties had become buyer’s markets.

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail ([email protected]gmail.com).

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