- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2010

More than 70,000 homes in the Washington region were in the foreclosure process in 2009, a drop of 7 percent compared to 2008.

Big numbers like these are of limited utility, of course. Real estate is local, as you know, so you have to consider each county (and even neighborhood) to be its own market. And one year’s data doesn’t tell the whole story about any market.

Let’s consider Prince William County as an example. Even though the total number of foreclosures in Prince William fell by 39 percent last year, this county isn’t out of the woods. Prince William has been burdened by a higher rate of foreclosure than any other jurisdiction in the area.

PDF: Charting the market

You see, Prince William County has roughly 133,000 housing units, and 7.3 percent of those were somewhere in the foreclosure process last year - down from 12 percent in 2008.

Compare that to Fairfax County next door, where there are nearly 400,000 housing units. Although the sheer number of foreclosures was higher in Fairfax last year, just 3.1 percent of those 400,000 units were in foreclosure.

Foreclosures are more abundant outside the Beltway than inside. Arlington, Alexandria and the District enjoyed the lowest rates of foreclosure in the region.

Looking at the region as a whole, 3.3 percent of all housing units were in foreclosure last year, compared to 3.5 percent in 2008.

As you can see in the charts, the numbers were down in most of Virginia and up in Maryland. That’s because the foreclosure rate was significantly higher in Virginia in 2008. Broadly speaking, the region’s real estate woes hit Virginia harder and earlier than Maryland.

That caused home prices to fall further in Virginia, and that, in turn, caused a stronger sales rebound than we’ve seen in Maryland.

Foreclosures are becoming popular among buyers these days as the price-conscious are drawn to anything that might be a bargain. Bank-owned homes in desirable neighborhoods often are attracting multiple offers and selling for more than the asking price.

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