Ashley Leigh, an agent with Linton Hall Realtors, characterizes the county as a “value market” in which “buyers get more house for the dollar.” For example, the median sales price in Montgomery in August was $532,992; in Prince William, it was about half that, $277,500. In the neighboring Northern Virginia jurisdictions of Loudoun and Fairfax counties, the median sales figures were also substantially higher than in Prince William, $385,000 and $420,000, respectively. According to Solomon, property taxes on average are 31 percent lower in his county than in other Northern Virginia jurisdictions.
The result is that “houses priced well in showable condition are selling” in Prince William, Leigh says. His most recent sale as of this writing was a mid-size colonial in Manassas for $360,000.
According to the latest figures released by the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS), the median sales price in Prince William was up 4.72 percent, to $277,500, in August, compared with a year ago. The region’s overall median sales price, meanwhile, was flat in the same period.
“We are on the upswing, but not as dramatic as we would like,” says Evelyn Golden, an agent with Prudential Carruthers; her most recent sale was a $280,000 condominium in Belmont Bay near Occoquan.
Golden says that she is seeing fewer foreclosures lately but that she still frequently handles short sales, especially in Dale City, in the eastern part of the county. John L. Heithaus, chief marketing officer for MRIS, mentions Catlett and Dumfries as other Prince William localities that continue to have high rates of foreclosures and short sales.
All three jurisdictions have many houses that fall at the lower end of the price scale, while western areas of the county tend to have much higher average values because of luxury developments such as Victory Lakes in Bristow, Dominion Valley in Haymarket and Lake Manassas in Gainesville. Countywide, foreclosures and short sales still account for 25 to 30 percent of the county’s housing sales.
While that percentage might sound high, it is a vast improvement from 2008 and 2009, when Prince William was hit harder than any other Northern Virginia jurisdiction by the mortgage crisis. The county had undergone a building boom just before the bust, so it had lots of inventory. It also had more than its share of homeowners defaulting on subprime mortgages. At one point, in 2007, the county had 6,500 properties listed for sale, 844 of them foreclosures.