- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

Last month, I asked whether Montgomery County might be ready for the kind of sales rebound we have seen recently in Prince William and Fairfax counties. Well, Montgomery’s day seems to have arrived.

Last month, sales of existing homes in Montgomery County were up 31 percent over August 2007. That’s the kind of dramatic sales increases we’ve seen in some Virginia jurisdictions recently, but it’s the first time it has happened in Maryland this year.

The sales surge in Virginia is significantly larger than Montgomery’s, of course. August sales were up 211 percent in Prince William County, 66 percent in Loudoun and 87 percent in Stafford.

Sales in Fairfax County were up 48 percent, which is interesting because Fairfax and Montgomery have a lot in common. They are neighbors. Both straddle the Beltway, and both have high median incomes, large populations and relatively expensive homes.

Yet sales rebounded first and more aggressively in Fairfax than they did in Montgomery.

A significant difference is how far prices have fallen since the 2005 real estate peak. In August 2005, the median sales price in Fairfax County was $500,000. Last month, it was $375,000 - a drop of $125,000.

Montgomery County, on the other hand, went from $439,000 in August 2005 to $408,000 last month - a drop of just $31,000.

I am sure homeowners in Montgomery County will enjoy hearing their homes have retained their value better than those in Fairfax. Also, while it was probably that steep drop in home prices that boosted Fairfax sales, I suppose many owners in Fairfax would have preferred value retention over their current sales rebound.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see if prices will continue to fall in Fairfax or if the increase in sales activity will halt the decline in home prices.

Looking at the Washington region overall, I have to remind you that the sales slump certainly isn’t over, but the kind of sales activity we are seeing in some of the region’s largest counties is definitely a positive sign.

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

The statistics in this story reflect a metropolitan area that 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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