- - Thursday, December 1, 2011

Although the real estate market has improved significantly in Maryland, the Virginia side of the Potomac still holds an edge.

Looking back over the first 10 months of the year, we find that sales rose in every Washington-area jurisdiction except one. A 2 percent drop in Arlington is not much, though, and sellers in Arlington County enjoy quick sales and enough buyer competition to keep home prices up.

The region’s biggest increase in sales was in Prince George’s County, where buyers have purchased 48 percent more homes than last year. It’s a significant improvement that helps bring more balance to the region’s two sides.

In 2008, Prince George’s County captured only 7 percent of the region’s sales, compared to 15 percent this year. What could cause a county’s market share to more than double in just three years? Home prices.

You see, in 2008, the region’s hottest market was Prince William County, capturing 14 percent of area sales even though it has a much smaller population than nearby Fairfax County, which had 21 percent of the area’s sales. Buyers were drawn by the thousands to Prince William because the foreclosure mess had caused a dramatic drop in home prices there.

But while 2008 was the year home prices bottomed out in Prince William County, they didn’t hit bottom in Prince George’s County until this year.

So, while prices began to climb back up in Northern Virginia - a good thing - that also caused some buyer activity to shift eastward over the Potomac. Buyers drawn by the affordability of homes in Prince George’s are the reason that county now has a 15 percent share of the region’s sales, and Prince William’s share has fallen to 9 percent.

Despite such improvements, it still takes quite a bit longer to sell a home in Maryland because there’s a larger backlog of unsold homes in the inventory. That’s why homes in Charles and Anne Arundel counties take twice as long to sell as homes in many parts of Northern Virginia.

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