- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sales of existing homes were a little higher in October than they had been in September — an annual phenomenon known as the “October bounce.”

But it wasn’t enough of a bounce to redeem what has been the Washington area’s slowest sales year since 2000.

Last month, sales were 23 percent lower than in October 2005. January through October sales totals came in 25 percent behind last year.

Sales were down by double digits throughout the metropolitan area, but Virginia has seen a more dramatic slowdown this year than Maryland.

Prince William County has experienced the most severe turnaround. Sales there were down 41 percent during the first 10 months of the year. Loudoun was down by 36 percent, while the Northern Virginia market of Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria was down by 28 percent.

Maryland looked quite different. The largest slowdown was in Montgomery County, where sales fell by 21 percent. But Prince George’s County saw sales fall by 14 percent, and Charles County was down by “only” 13 percent.

The sharper decline in Virginia’s sales has made Maryland the dominant market in our area this year. During the first 10 months of the year, 50 percent of the region’s home sales were in Maryland markets. Last year, Maryland’s share was 46 percent.

The District has captured 8 percent of this year’s sales, which is the city’s usual share during the past nine years. Prior to that, however, sales in the District were typically 6 or 7 percent of the region’s total.

One of the reasons home sales are shifting away from Virginia is home prices. The most expensive markets in the region are usually Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax and Loudoun.

Considering how much faster home prices have risen than household income, it’s not surprising that buyers are favoring Maryland markets.

Prince George’s and Charles counties, in particular, are much more affordable than the rest of the region. This certainly has something to do with the fact that those two counties have had the best sales years in the region.

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

The metropolitan area 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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