Slower Sales, Higher Prices

Houses, condominiums and co-ops in Loudoun County took longer to sell last month than in September 2004, but when they sold, the prices were about 26 percent higher.

That's a snapshot of data compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information System Inc., which tracks real estate trends in the Washington area.

The 650 Loudoun units that changed hands last month had a median selling price of $485,000, up from $385,000 in September 2004.

The units sold in about 33 days compared with 25 days in the same period last year.

How does Loudoun stack up against other counties in the region?

The September numbers for Prince William County, including the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, show 1,024 homes sold for a median price of $384,900, up 28 percent from last year. The homes sold in about 29 days, compared with about 23 days in September 2004.

The same trends were evident in Fairfax County (including the city of Fairfax), Arlington County, Alexandria and Falls Church, where the median price increased 22 percent to $480,000.

The 2,377 home sales that occurred in those jurisdictions took an average of about 26 days to settle, compared with 20 days last year.

One more Loudoun tidbit that's surely a sign of the times: Only one of the 570 houses and seven of the 80 condo and co-ops that were sold went for less than $250,000.

High Marks for Orbital

Orbital Sciences Corp., the Dulles-based satellite and rocket maker, has received a "buy" rating from analyst Troy J. Lahr of Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc.

Lahr calls Orbital his "best small-cap defense idea," in part because of recent contracts the company has won to build and launch commercial satellites.

Orbital is scheduled to report third-quarter earnings before the stock market opens today. Lahr predicted "near double-digit sales growth" but smaller operating margins because of spending on research and development.

Orbital recently announced that a communications satellite it built for PanAmSat Corp. was successfully launched Oct. 13 from the European Space Agency's complex in Kourou, French Guiana.

Clean-Up Duty

Dulles-based Alpha Corp. announced that it had been awarded an $8.5 million contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help with debris removal in the Louisiana parishes affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

About 100 employees of the engineering, construction and management firm have been sent to Louisiana.

Dates to Save

Today: The Loudoun County Small Business Development Center hosts a seminar called "Gaining and Keeping Customers for Life" from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Thomas Balch Library, 208 West Market St., Leesburg. The center also will host "Jump-Start Your Federal Government Sales: Learn About Opportunities Under $100K" next Thursday at Eastern Loudoun Regional Library in Sterling. To register for the free seminars, call 703-430-7222 or e-mail sbdc@loudounsbdc.org.

Tomorrow: The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce hosts a forum for candidates to the Virginia House of Delegates on such business-related topics as taxation, technology and workforce development.

The forum at Embassy Suites Dulles runs from 8 to 10 a.m. Ticket prices start at $30. RSVP to skeus@loudounchamber.org.

-- BILL BRUBAKER

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