- - Thursday, August 4, 2011

So far, this has been the best year for Washington-area real estate since 2006. During the first half of 2011, contracts were ratified on 47,353 existing homes. That is 14 percent higher than in the first half of 2010.

Now, if you were paying any attention to the real estate market a year ago, you know the big story was how the federal tax credits boosted sales in the spring.

That they did. But the effect actually only lasted two months. You can see the result in today’s bottom chart. Sales in March and April 2010 shot up dramatically — but then sales returned to normal.

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Sales this year, on the other hand, have been steady and strong for six straight months. We have outsold last year every month except April.

That is what I find encouraging about this year’s statistics, that we could outsell 2010 by 14 percent and do it without any tax credits to artificially motivate homebuyers.

Another bright spot on today’s charts is the sales boom in Prince George’s County. With an incredible 41 percent increase in sales over last year, Prince George’s leads the region in sales growth.

In fact, sales in Prince George’s were higher than in Montgomery County during the first six months of the year. That is something that hasn’t happened in the past 20 years.

Why so much activity in Prince George’s County? Affordability has a lot to do with it. In 2008, we saw a very similar sales boom in Prince William County. Home prices had fallen dramatically there, and buyers came running, boosting sales by 127 percent that year.

After 2008, prices in Prince William and most of the region began to recover. But prices in Prince George’s continued to slide, making it the most affordable place to live anywhere near the District.

Looking at data for the past few months, it appears that prices are leveling off in Prince George’s County, which is the natural result of a significant increase in sales activity.

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