- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2010

Although the Washington-area housing market is still plagued by foreclosures, short sales and other economic challenges, 2009 was an encouraging year in at least two ways.

First, the sheer number of home sales was great to see. Nearly 95,000 existing homes were sold last year. That’s a 21 percent increase over 2008 and the biggest sales year since 2005. Second, the inventory at the end of 2009 was 30,500. So we began 2010 with a backlog of 30,500 unsold homes, compared to the 40,800 we had on our hands at the beginning of last year.

Starting this year with fewer unsold homes will do a lot to bring some competitiveness back to the market, and that is what stabilizes and elevates home prices.

Looking more closely at today’s bar charts, you’ll see something interesting about the sales totals for recent years. Notice that in 2005, the Maryland and Virginia sides of the Potomac River were seeing about the same number of home sales each year. Maryland’s total for 2005 was 56,226, and Virginia’s was 57,298.

PDF: Charting the market

In 2006, however, sales crashed in Virginia. The sales fest that had been going on there (fueled by easy mortgage money) came to an abrupt halt. Sales in 2006 fell 31 percent in Virginia, compared to a 17 percent drop in Maryland.

In 2007, sales equalized again, with about the same number of homes sold in Maryland and Virginia.

Virginia sales came roaring back in 2008. The steep drop in prices in counties such as Prince William attracted a horde of buyers. Sales in 2008 were up 35 percent in Virginia but fell another 17 percent in Maryland.

Last year, it was Maryland’s turn to bounce back. Sales rose 37 percent in Maryland and 10 percent in Virginia, but Virginia still outsold Maryland by about 10,000 homes.

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