- - Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nine months into 2011, area home builders had little reason to be glad. Just over 6,000 new homes were sold from January through September, compared to 13,555 over the same period in 2007.

Sales were down 21 percent compared to the first nine months of 2010, despite extremely attractive mortgage interest rates and a local economy that is better than the situation in most of the country.

But despite the gloom and doom, thousands of homes still were built and sold this year, so the new-homes industry isn’t dead. It’s even thriving in Loudoun County, the region’s largest new-homes market.

Sales in Loudoun reached 1,438 by the end of September, an increase of 10 percent over last year.

That’s remarkable, considering that sales in nearby Prince William County fell 33 percent - even though Prince William has outsold Loudoun County every year since 1999.

Price could have something to do with it. In 2005, the median price for a square foot of new home was $228 in Loudoun County and $211 in Prince William.

You can get that square foot of nice new home for much less this year - just $176 in Prince William and $165 in Loudoun. Notice that Prince William has become the more expensive of the two. After Stafford County, Prince William County experienced the region’s largest price increase this year, so some buyers may be looking north to Loudoun.

The only area jurisdiction besides Loudoun to have experienced an increase in new-home sales this year is the District, where sales rose by 8 percent over last year. That’s amazing when you realize that a square foot of new home in the District costs $408 this year, more than double the price in Prince William and Loudoun.

This demonstrates one thing about this area’s real estate market: Although many buyers are drawn outside the Beltway to find homes they can afford, there still are plenty of folks who can afford to buy the very expensive homes in the District and Arlington.

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