- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

January home sales were higher than December’s, but that’s one of the few positive things about last month’s real estate market. Only 3,744 homes were sold in the Washington area in December — making it the single slowest month in a dozen years.

So, January had an easy time besting December’s sales. Besides, sales in January are always higher than in December, so we can’t draw many conclusions about the 2008 market from this increase.

With only 4,821 homes sold last month, it was actually the slowest January since 1998. When you compare last month to January 2007, you’ll find that sales were down 33 percent.

Sales in Maryland fell more sharply than in Virginia, but that’s misleading if you don’t look back to past sales. In 2006, sales in Virginia took a much harder fall than Maryland did, so for the past year it has been Maryland’s turn to really slow down.

  • Click here to see chart (uploads pdf)

  • January sales were down more in Maryland’s Charles County than anywhere else. Sales fell 50 percent compared to January 2007.

    One surprise last month was a 9 percent increase in sales in Prince William County. Sales there fell 25 percent in 2007, but another factor from last year might be helping Prince William. The number of home listings surged, and prices fell. That combination of lower prices, low buyer activity, and high inventory add up to make Prince William a rather attractive area for home shoppers to explore.

    Still, you can’t say sales were strong in Prince William County last month. A sales figure of 584 measures up rather poorly against the 956 homes sold in January 2005.

    That three-year decline looks even worse when compared with that of Loudoun County. Sales there were 557 in January 2005, falling to 379 last month.

    Chris Sicks

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

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