In Prince William, A Spike in Home Sales

Segen and Kalani Kauo, with their children Kalani, 3, and Tatiyana, 2, said they could not afford to buy until recently.
Segen and Kalani Kauo, with their children Kalani, 3, and Tatiyana, 2, said they could not afford to buy until recently. (By Dayna Smith For The Washington Post)
By Dina ElBoghdady
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 31, 2008

Home sales in Prince William County have surged in recent months, a dramatic turn that suggests prices have dropped low enough to lure buyers to the Washington area's most devastated housing market.

The number of sales in the county have been climbing since March, with the steepest rise last month, when sales jumped 83 percent compared with the same time a year earlier, according to George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis.

The trend contrasts sharply with nearly every other county in the region, where sales sank.

The flurry of sales activity in Prince William has everything to do with its unusually high share of aggressively priced foreclosures. As of July 1, 55 percent of the homes for sale in the county were bank owned, down from the 72 percent peak in June, according to the Virginia Housing Development Authority. The median sales price for a home there last month was $250,000, down from $380,000 a year earlier.

Those snapping up the deals include bargain hunters from farther out in the exurbs, first-time buyers and investors. On occasion, bidding wars erupt.

"They're coming out of the woodwork looking for homes in Prince William," said Jim McClain Sr., owner of Greater Virginia Realty in Fredericksburg. "They're all price-driven."

Segen Kauo and her husband, Kalani, said they have been renting for seven years because they could not afford to buy until recently.

The couple has offered more than the asking price on two homes in Dale City that were headed to foreclosure, and they lost both times.

This month, they made another offer -- $370,000 -- on a five-bedroom house large enough for their growing family.

They bid more than the asking price, but they're up against five other offers.

"Isn't that crazy? I can't believe we're in this situation again," said Kauo, a dental hygienist who is expecting her third child. "We're keeping our fingers crossed."

Locally, the pace of sales continues to fall in most of the D.C. region, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, the area's multiple-listing service. In Prince George's County, sales last month were down 35 percent compared with June 2007; they were off 30 percent in Arlington. Besides Prince William, the exceptions were Loudoun County, up 19 percent, and Fairfax County, where sales were up 2 percent.

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