- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

Existing-home sales were up 18 percent in February, as shoppers took advantage of some bargains. About 6,700 homes were sold in the Washington metropolitan area last month - that is 1,000 more than in February 2008.

How do we know that bargains were motivating buyers?

Consider this: What kind of home do you think received more attention in the first week of March than any other in the region? I searched the Realtors’ database, which is run by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS), and included the entire Washington-Baltimore region and parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Was the most-searched property a fancy condo in Dupont Circle or a waterfront retreat on the Chesapeake Bay?

To download the chart, click here.

Nope. It was a 40-year-old split-foyer in Woodbridge, listed for $200,000.

That’s the kind of home that is getting attention - and offers - these days. Other homes MRIS included in the top 10 searches for that week: Single-family homes in Anne Arundel and Charles counties are on the market for just $250,000, and a big five-bedroom house west of Manassas (that’s only six years old) is listed for $290,000.

Buyers seem to be responding to the drop in home prices. Since February 2008, median prices have fallen by 20 percent or more in many jurisdictions. The hottest market in the entire region is Prince William County, where prices have fallen 50 percent since 2007.

Going forward, the fate of the market really depends on consumer confidence. That’s the only thing we’re missing right now. There are abundant homes to choose from, prices are low and interest rates are great.

With economic conditions still uncertain, and many folks concerned about the stability of their income, we won’t see housing rebound until a lot of people get out there and buy.

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail (csicksgmail.com).

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