Locally based Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. has put a new notch in its belt.

The Fairfax firm, the biggest privately owned regional real estate brokerage, has now topped a national chart.

According to a report this week by research consultants Real Trends Inc., Long & Foster was No. 1 in America in 2002 for transactions closed by independent, privately owned firms. It outsold New Jersey-based Weichert Realtors for the first time since 1990, when Real Trends started keeping records.

Long & Foster completed 97,460 transaction sides (representing both the buyer and the seller in the same sale would count as two transactions), worth a total of $23 billion, a company statement said.

Weichert, however, remained in first place in sales volume by dollar amount for independent, privately owned firms, completing 89,000 transactions worth $24.5 billion.

In Real Trends' annual ranking of the nation's top 500 companies, Long & Foster and Weichert were outranked by either measure by No. 1 NRT of Parsippany, N.J., which is publicly owned, and No. 2 HomeServices of America Inc. of Edina, Minn., which is an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., a public firm.

Long & Foster spokeswoman Juli Verrier said Weichert held its sales volume lead because of higher home prices in the New Jersey market.

Weichert and Long & Foster have been vying for the top spot among privately owned brokerages since Weichert entered the Washington market in 1990.

-- Sandra Fleishman