- The Washington Times - Friday, May 29, 2009

I like Maryland. I really do. It’s a wonderful state and a great place to live. It’s just not a great place to sell a home this year.

Due in large part to sharp drops in home prices, the Virginia side of the Washington metropolitan area has taken a dominant position in existing-home sales during the past two years.

Of all the existing homes sold during the first four months of the year, 57 percent were sold on the Virginia side of the Potomac. That is quite an increase from 2007, when Virginia only garnered 44 percent of sales during the same period.

To download a PDF of the chart, click here

It is no surprise that more of the region’s sales occurred in Fairfax County than anywhere else. Fairfax is the region’s largest housing market, with 392,000 housing units in 2007, according to the Census. So it seems to make sense that 22 percent of the year’s sales would go to Fairfax County.

However, Montgomery County has 362,000 housing units and only 13 percent of the region’s sales this year.

Besides the boom in Fairfax, a lot of the shift in sales from Maryland to Virginia is due to the explosion in sales in Prince William County. It is surprising that a county with just 134,000 housing units captures 17 percent of the region’s home sales this year. That’s a sharp increase from 7 percent in 2007.

Of course, it took a painful decline in home prices to attract all those buyers. As the price chart shows, Prince William County was the lowest-priced jurisdiction in the Washington area. To find less-expensive homes, you have to go up to Baltimore city or out to Culpeper and Warren counties in Virginia. Back in 2005, Prince William would have appeared just above Montgomery County on that chart, ranking seventh instead of this year’s 14th.

Steep price drops in Prince George’s County have fueled a resurgence in sales there as well. Both Prince William and Prince George’s enjoyed a 45 percent increase in sales.

Differences remain, however. A home sold in April in Prince George’s County spent an average of five months on the market before finding a buyer, while the average home in Prince William took less than three months to sell.

Most Virginia sales have happened in three months or less this year. While that is four times longer than it took to sell in 2005, it is still significantly faster than Maryland homes are selling this year.

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

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