Maryland Weathers Slump in Housing Market

Developments such as MetroPlace in Suitland house the growing Prince George's population.
Developments such as MetroPlace in Suitland house the growing Prince George's population. "You can still find one-bedroom condos for $150,000" in some of the county's neighborhoods, one real estate agent said. (By Sarah Abruzzese For The Washington Post)
By Susan Straight
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fast growth and comparatively moderate housing costs helped home price appreciation in Prince George's County blast past the rest of the area last year, even as the real estate market wallowed in most of the nation.

The median sale price of single-family houses and townhouses in Prince George's in 2006 was $339,900, up 18 percent from $287,500 in 2005, according to a Washington Post analysis of government records. Condominium sales were tallied separately. The median sale price is the point at which half the properties were more expensive and half were less.

Contrast the numbers with neighboring Montgomery County, where the median sale price last year was $475,000, up 9 percent.

The number of house sales in Prince George's increased, too, by 8 percent to 13,592. That was more than in Montgomery or Fairfax counties, both of which have more residents and saw a falloff in sales.

Growth in Prince George's, where median prices are still lower than in Montgomery, Howard and Anne Arundel counties, is in part due to many new developments. These include places such as Fairwood, single-family houses and townhouses built on a former turf farm in Bowie, and MetroPlace, a three-story luxury townhouse development at the Camp Springs Town Center in Suitland. While MetroPlace markets residences starting in the mid-$300,000s, single-family houses in Fairwood start in the $500,000s and can surpass the $900,000s.

Although such prices are unrealistic for many buyers, "you can still find one-bedroom condos for $150,000 in Prince George's," said Stacey Barton, an agent with Long & Foster and 13-year resident of the county. "People can't afford Montgomery; they don't always want to live in D.C. Prince George's is a great county since it's still close in. You can still find space in Prince George's."

Even in Prince George's, those who want space will have difficulty finding it for less than about $300,000. A two-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bath brick townhouse in Bowie recently listed for $395,900; an older three-bedroom, two-bath rambler in Bowie recently listed at $369,549.

But say you want a house on a sizable lot, perhaps half an acre. "You could find that easily in Charles County," in the low to mid-$300,000s, Barton said. In Waldorf, a three-bedroom, two-bath on half an acre recently listed for $360,000.

Median sale prices of condominiums jumped last year in suburban Maryland, rising 18 percent to $250,000. Regionwide, including the District and Northern Virginia, the median sale price for condos rose 1 percent to $285,299.

Last year, as economists nationally debated whether the abrupt cooling of the once-blazing housing market would hurt the economy overall, the District and Northern Virginia felt the turnaround more than suburban Maryland.

In the District, the median price rose 7 percent to $450,000 as the number of sales dropped off. Jackie Talpa, managing broker with Weichert Realtors' Cleveland Park office, blamed some of the slowdown on increased inventory created when panicky investors tried to sell. Speculators accounted for up to 25 percent of the market during the heady years of double-digit appreciation, Talpa said.

"You had a lot of speculators in new communities and conversions," Talpa said. "They would flip them and make a lot of money. That ended abruptly at the end of '05."

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