Sales of new homes rebounded a bit in the Washington area in October, the first monthly upswing since June, according to Housing Data Reports, a real estate consulting and research firm.

About 1,200 people signed contracts to buy new homes in October, up 7.5 percent from sales in September, the group said.

More prospective buyers also are apparently following through to settlement, according to Housing Data Reports. Net sales, after removing transactions where people back out or are unable to complete the purchase, increased by 26.9 percent in October from September.

The bright spot in the market for builders is new town homes, with people buying at increased rates in Howard County, upper Montgomery County and Prince George's County.

Overall, however, the market continues to show a year-to-year decline. For the first 10 months of the year, compared with the same period in 1989, sales of new single-family town house and duplex homes fell 39 percent, while sales of new condominiums fell 25 percent, Housing Data Reports said.

Miglin-Beitler Inc. is expanding its horizons and revising its expectations as it seeks financing for what it proposes as the new tallest building in the world in Chicago, a business magazine reported this week.

Ground was to have been broken in September for the 125-story Miglin-Beitler Tower, to be built within a few blocks of what is currently the world's tallest building, the 110-story, 1,452-foot Sears Tower. A dramatic shrinkage of the investment capital market, however, has stalled the start of construction.

"We have to take a new approach to get this thing financed," Miglin-Beitler President J. Paul Beitler said in the magazine, Crain's Chicago Business.

Among other steps, the firm plans to expand its money search overseas. While most previous fund-raising efforts were concentrated in the United States, a new push will be made with Dutch and Japanese pension funds.

The firm also is revising some of the economic assumptions built into its investment materials, and has named former Citicorp real estate lender Debra Ann Conrardy to head its financing effort.

The firm still believes it is possible to break ground on the needle-like structure by spring, Beitler said, and he remains optimistic the building will be completed.

"All the assumptions we are making are quite reasonable," he said.

The construction of about 6,800 new homes and apartments in Anne Arundel County will be exempt from a county reforestation law under a recent decision.

The ruling by the Office of Planning and Zoning has infuriated some environmentalists, who charged the county with giving developers too much leeway with the tough new law. The exemption will result in the loss of hundreds of acres of trees that should have been replanted, they said.

"This undercuts the public's desire -- and subverts the intent of the law -- to stop the years of ruinous land development here in Anne Arundel County," said Nita Settina, a local Sierra Club activist.

Rodney Banks, a county environmental planner, defended the move, however, saying it would be unfair, and probably illegal, to apply tree- replacement standards to developments that were under review when the law was passed last year.

He said the county still will press for strict, environmentally sensitive building practices on exempted projects, although he conceded there is no guarantee they will be followed.

While Banks could not say how many projects would be affected by the ruling, he estimated that about 6,800 homes and apartments county- wide would be built without having to meet the tree law.

In September and October, 694,000 square feet of office space were leased in the District, down 45 percent from 1.3 million square feet during the same period in 1989, the Washington office of Julien J. Studley Inc. reported.

In the year to date, 5.7 million square feet of space have been leased in the District, down 10 percent from 6.3 million square feet during the first 10 months of 1989. The average annual rental rate was $40.52 per square foot in new buildings and $29.10 per square foot in old buildings.

In suburban Maryland, 440,300 square feet of office space were rented in September and October. For the year to date, the total is 4.3 million square feet, down 33 percent from the same period of 1989. In Northern Virginia, the latest two-month total was 2.2 million square feet, and 9.1 million square feet for the year. The 10-month total was down 1 percent from 1989.

Former president Richard Nixon sold his seven-bedroom home in Saddle River, N.J., for $2.4 million to a Japanese businessman last week.

Nixon and his wife, Pat, are moving to a three-bedroom condominium in Park Ridge, about a mile from their home in northern New Jersey. They decided the condominium would be easier and less expensive to maintain, a family spokesman said last spring.

The home was placed on the market with a $3.25 million price tag and was reduced to $2.9 million during the summer.

Real estate broker Mary Lenk confirmed the sale but would not identify the buyer. She didn't know whether it had been bought as a residence or as an investment.

The Nixons bought the house in Saddle River in 1981 for $1.25 million and made $300,000 in improvements, family spokesman John Taylor said in April.

IN THE BUSINESS ... The McLean-based Cross Cos. formed C.J. Cross Real Estate Services Ltd., an asset management firm designated as a Resolution Trust Corp.-qualified contractor ... Bozzuto & Associates began construction of the second phase of Crystal Park Apartments, a 114-unit rental apartment project in Frederick ... Winchester Homes took 100 Washington-area children to a matinee performance of "A Christmas Carol" at Ford's Theatre this week as part of its "Home for the Holidays" program ... Trafalgar House Residential is planning two new developments: Montgomery Meadows, a development of 112 single-family homes in Ellicott City, Md., and Foxhall Farms, a development of 114 single-family homes near Catonsville, Md. Houses will cost from $200,000 ... Columbia Builders Inc. began construction on homes at its Heritage Green Luxury Townhome development in Columbia, Md. The 80 homes, 17 of which will abut a golf course, will be priced between $160,000 and $180,000 ... The Gaithersburg and Bethesda offices of Prudential Preferred Properties have been relocated. The Gaithersburg office is now on Lakeforest Boulevard in Montgomery village and the Bethesda office is on Bethesda Avenue ... LBA Ltd., a Fairfax-based civil engineering and planning firm, opened a branch office in Culpeper, Va. ... First Virginia Bank is planning to offer special home improvement loans of up to $17,500 designed around the Federal Housing Administration's Title I Home Improvement Loan program.

CALENDAR ... The Northern Virginia Apartment Association is planning to hold a seminar on fair housing practices Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Best Western Executive Inn in Arlington. The cost is $75 for members and $150 for nonmembers ... First Union Mortgage Corp. is planning a free seminar for first-time home buyers Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Aurora Hills branch of the Arlington County Library. For more information, call 703-358-5715 ... Georgetown University Law Center is planning a seminar on Implementing New Concepts in Land Use Regulation on Dec. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The cost is $195 ... Bethesda-based Lightworks Seminars is planning a two-hour course on Managing the Home Remodeling Process. For information on times and locations, call 301-652-0515.

PERSONNEL FILE ... Doncor Realty Group Inc. in McLean named Melissa S. Ulsaker vice president for administration ... Springfield-based Cahaba Residential Contractors, a subsidiary of Spaw-Glass Inc. of Houston, promoted Tom L. Brewer, James H. Jones and Jerry W. Wilson to vice president ... Xerox Realty Corp. promoted Cathleen A. Magennis to vice president for its 2,267-acre Lansdowne project in Leesburg ... ORS Associates Inc., a facilities planning and development consulting firm in McLean, promoted Charles M. (Bud) Rives III to president, adding to his responsibilities as chief operating officer ... Earle Kennett was named vice president of the National Institute of Building Sciences ... The board of the Federal National Mortgage Association elected both Martin D. Levine and Thomas W. White as senior vice presidents. Levine will be responsible for managing and creating programs to expand housing opportunities for lower-income households and White will be responsible for multifamily programs. The board also appointed eight vice presidents: Violetta Kapsalis Buhler, Donna M. Callejon, Deborah L. Cohen, Bess Donaldson, Jane Orahood, Julie St. John, Daniel C. Smith and Paul R. Vergets.