- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

If there’s any way you can put your house on wheels, it might sell better in Virginia.

Maryland and Virginia once divvied up the region’s home sales rather evenly. If you look back to 2005 — before the real estate market tanked — you find that 123,000 homes were sold in the Washington metropolitan area that year. Eight percent were sold in the District, with Maryland and Virginia each getting 46 percent of total sales.

A few years later, things look very different. During the first 11 months of 2008, Virginia captured 56 percent of the region’s home sales. The District still got 8 percent, leaving Maryland with just 36 percent.

The pie shared by these three areas was a lot smaller, of course. Only 73,000 homes were sold in those 11 months. However, a lot more of them were sold in Virginia, and it´s probably because prices fell so hard there.

The plunge in prices in Prince William County drew buyers by the thousands. Sales were up 125 percent last year, with Prince William capturing 17 percent of the region’s sales, compared to just 8 percent in 2007.

Of course, all that good news about sales in Prince William is only the result of the bad news about home values. In November, prices there were down 43 percent, the largest drop in the metropolitan area.

The surge in sales we’ve seen in Virginia has made it much easier to sell a home there than in Maryland, as you can see in today’s sales-chances figures. Chances are my way of measuring the level of competition in the real estate market. Dividing sales figures for the month by the inventory on the last day of the month results in a percentage; a figure below 20 percent indicates a buyer’s market. Higher figures mean we’re in a balanced market or a seller’s market.

At 12 percent, Montgomery County had better sales chances than other Maryland counties. Yet, Stafford’s figure of 13 percent shows that even a distant suburb in Virginia was a more competitive market than close-in Montgomery at the end of 2008.

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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