Bubble, What Bubble?

The report is headed: "The Big Bad 'B' Word."

B, as in: bubble.

Bubble, as in: Does a bubble exist in the Loudoun County housing market?

A recent analysis by the county's economic development department said healthy economic conditions may insulate Loudoun and the Washington metro region from the risk of declining housing prices.

"Employment growth in the area, topping 10 percent in the latest quarter, ranks fifth among the nation's 3,100 counties," the report said. "Also, Loudoun's rock bottom unemployment rate of 2.2 percent is lower than all but seven counties in the U.S.

"Finally, in-migration, which contributes about 1,000 people per month to Loudoun's population, remains strong as workers flock to the area to take advantage of job opportunities and a high quality of life."

For these reasons, the report concluded, declines in regional housing prices are unlikely, at least in the near future.

Seven-Figure Houses

The million-dollar home sale was once a rarity in Loudoun.

No longer.

In August, 27 single-family home contracts were settled at prices of $1 million or greater, according to data from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.

That compares with eight in August 2004.

Through the first eight months of this year, 176 homes have sold for $1 million or more. That compares with 62 in the first eight months of last year.

The data showed that single-family homes in the $150,000 to $299,999 price range are becoming scarcer. Last month, there were 11 sold in that range, compared with 57 in August 2004.

Prices of condominiums and co-ops also are on the move in Loudoun. From January through August, 15 condos and co-ops were sold at prices of $500,000 or more, compared with only two the same period last year.

From Rockets to Buses

Orbital Sciences Corp. is best known as a rocket maker that does business with countries large and small. But the Dulles company also has a transportation management division that serves public transit systems in the United States and overseas.

On Monday, Orbital announced it had been awarded a $4.4 million contract to improve the efficiency of Intercity Transit of Olympia, Wash.

Orbital said it will provide an advanced communications system for the dispatchers and drivers of Intercity's 85 vehicles.

Orbital also recently signed a $3.5 million deal with Culver City, Calif., to outfit 55 buses and other vehicles with a satellite-based "SmartBus" system that makes automated stop announcements and provides security camera surveillance. Orbital said this system is used by 55 customers in the United States and overseas.

Advance Notice

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which runs Dulles and Reagan National airports, will host its 15th annual Business Opportunity Seminar Nov. 9 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington. The free seminar promises information on current and future contracting opportunities. Register at www.mwaa.com/contracting/bos15-attendee.htm.

Deadlines:

Tomorrow, to apply for a spot on the Loudoun County Economic Development Commission. The EDC is a public/private partnership. Send resumes to: EDC Nominating Committee, c/o Debra Jenkins, Loudoun County Department of Economic Development, 1 Harrison St., 5th Floor, P.O. Box 7000, Leesburg, VA 20177.

Sept. 23, for Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce members to nominate board members. Send nominations to Mindy Williams at mwilliams@accesspointpa.com.

-- BILL BRUBAKER

Have news about Loudoun and Fauquier county business to share? Send an e-mail to brubaker@washpost.com.