Home prices in the Washington metropolitan area have been up for 26 out of the past 30 months.
While local markets vary significantly from neighborhood to neighborhood, almost all of the 22 jurisdictions in the Washington region have seen some price growth over the past year. The notable exception has been Prince George’s County.
But in April — for the first time since they started to plummet in early 2007 — home prices in Prince George’s County are up. In April 2012, the average sales price in Prince George’s was 8 percent higher than the average price in April 2011. (Regionwide, prices were up 6.1 percent in April.)
There are several reasons why home prices in Prince George’s County languished while other local markets across the region recovered. Suburban Maryland tended to lag behind Northern Virginia both in the run up in home prices in 2002 to 2006 and then in the depreciation. As a result, the recovery also came a little later in suburban Maryland. Also, the foreclosure problem was felt very acutely in Prince George’s County and the process for working through foreclosures was slower in Maryland than Virginia.
But right now Prince George’s County could be a real bargain for many potential homebuyers. In addition to some of the lowest home prices in the region, Prince George’s County is well-served by transit (15 Metro stops — more than any other jurisdiction aside from the District) and highways (I-95, B-W Parkway, Route 50, ICC.) There is a significant amount of open space and parkland in the county. More retail has been coming to the county, including new trendy clothing stores at National Harbor and a Wegman’s in Glenarden. And the county offers diverse housing options — from large suburban housing in Brandywine to the new mixed use Arts District in Hyattsville.
Average home prices in Prince George’s County peaked in mid-2006 at around $350,000 (including single-family and condos). The average single-family detached home sold for just under $400,000 in 2006. In April 2012, the average price of all homes sold in Prince George’s County was about $185,000, a drop of almost 50 percent from the peak price. The average single-family detached home sold for about $207,000 in April. By contrast, an average single-family detached home in Montgomery County sells for about $585,000.
Prince George’s County is not place the place for everyone — no one neighborhood or jurisdiction is right for every household. But there are bargains to be had in the county and smart buyers will capitalize on the deals now before prices begin their steady rise into the summer.
Lisa A. Sturtevant is an assistant research professor at George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis.