A veteran of Washington area home building has launched a new business, counting on a downturn in the real estate market to reduce land prices and pave the way for consultants in the industry.

George R. Middleton resigned as vice president of Richmond American Homes of Fairfax, one of the area's largest builders, early this summer to open New Home Services Inc., a two-person operation that provides sales and marketing training and analysis to medium- and large-size builders.

Middleton also signed on as vice president and part owner of Southern Land Development Inc., an 18-month-old Tysons Corner company with property assets of about $20 million.

"There are now tremendous opportunities in acquisition and development of ground," said Middleton, predicting that land prices will fall in response to the real estate slowdown. "The consumer is going to say, eventually, 'I can now afford to come back in and look at buying a home.' "

On the consulting side, Middleton is advertising his 16 years of experience at area home building companies, including Ryland Homes, Yeonas Co. and Sequoia Building Corp., to attract his first clients.

He has signed four contracts with area developers since opening New Home Services July 1. Two of them, Crestwood Homes and Laing Homes, are British-owned companies that only recently opened offices here and that Middleton said will tap his familiarity with the region.

Frank Martin, a former vice president at Ryland Homes who formed his own consulting firm in 1979, called Middleton "one of the top sales and marketing executives in the industry" and said his expertise "is very important from the perspective of the new kid on the block."

"He's been in this market for years," said Richmond American Vice President Peter Thompson. "He knows everyone in marketing and sales." Before leaving Richmond American, Middleton negotiated a contract under which he will work with the new vice president for marketing during an unspecified transition period. New Home Services may also perform market studies and research for Richmond American in the future, Thompson said.

Striking out on his own is not new to Middleton, who left Sequoia Corp. in 1982 to launch a small home building company that fell victim to a real estate slump that dried up his capital and ability to borrow. He returned to Yeonas, where he had worked from 1979 to 1981, and put his plans on hold.

This time, Middleton said, he has done things differently. He saved money to start New Home Services to avoid taking out bank loans, and said the company should start turning monthly profits when it signs one more client.

Middleton estimated his personal investment in the company will total $50,000.

Even before profits start coming in, Middleton said, he is relishing the freedom that comes from running his own office and shrugging off the temporary inconveniences of answering phones and scheduling appointments.

"Eventually, I think, we {all} want to go out there and create something that is ours alone," he said. "I want to be able to put something together and do it the way I feel it can best be done, and that's what I'm doing here."