- - Thursday, September 8, 2011

The strongest part of the Washington-area real estate market can be found in Northern Virginia. There, sales are up, inventory is down and sales prices are rising.

Why is the Northern Virginia real estate market faring better than those in other parts of the Washington region? Jobs have a lot to do with it. Last month, Inc. magazine published its list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the country. Forty-nine of those are in the Washington region, and of them, 26 are in Fairfax County.

If that doesn’t impress you, get this: With 26 of the country’s fastest-growing firms, Fairfax County has more than any county in the nation and more than 46 of the states.

California, Florida, Texas and New York are the only places with more fast-growing companies than Fairfax County. Growing companies mean more jobs, and employment growth translates into more demand for housing.

There’s been enough demand among buyers in Northern Virginia (and the District) that home prices have bounced back. In fact, median sales prices in Alexandria, Arlington and the District are back up to where they were in 2005 - the year sales started to decline.

I know today’s charts make it appear as if prices are down in Arlington. That’s just how price data are - each month they fluctuate up and down a bit because different homes are sold every month.

It may seem obvious that different homes sell each month, but that makes home prices harder to track. Homes aren’t like computers or cars - every piece of real estate is unique. A few unusually expensive or inexpensive sales can have a large impact on median price statistics.

So, although the homes sold in July in Arlington had a lower median price than those sold last July, the median price back in January was $438,000. It was $360,000 in Fairfax, and $385,250 in Alexandria.

Since January, prices have risen steadily in these jurisdictions. They’ve also been climbing in the District, Loudoun County and Maryland’s Montgomery and Howard counties.

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