For years, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in suburban Maryland seemed to almost seesaw: When prices and sales were up in one county, they were down in the other. Recently, the housing markets in the two counties have been more in sync despite the gap between median home prices in each jurisdiction.
“Both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties had median sales price increases around 5 percent in February 2018 compared to February 2017,” says Andrew Strauch, vice president of Bright MLS in Rockville, Md. “That’s a healthy price increase for both counties, and it means that Prince George’s County has caught up and finally recovered from the housing crisis.”
The median sales price in Montgomery County was $410,000 in February, compared with a median sales price of $280,000 in Prince George’s County, according to Bright.
“Prince George’s County was the standout in the region, the one that behaved differently from the other counties. But now that’s evened out, and the price appreciation, inventory and average days on the market are similar to most of the rest of the region.”
The neighborhoods where buyers are particularly active share some of the same characteristics in both counties, too.
“The hot markets in Prince George’s County are around Hyattsville, Riverdale and University Park, which have public amenities, transportation and density that make them walkable,” says Nela Richardson, chief economist of Redfin real estate brokerage in Washington. “In Montgomery County, the hot spots are in Rockville and Silver Spring near the Metro stations. There’s also more development around the Wheaton Metro station.”
Bethesda’s walkable downtown and neighborhoods close to the Bethesda Metro have seen dramatic price increases, but other parts of the county are less exorbitant. Buyers looking at homes priced above $1 million can find more to choose from in Montgomery than in the District. But buyers with average budgets can find more affordable houses farther from the D.C. border and from Metro stations in Germantown, Olney and Clarksburg.
“It almost defies logic that so many home buyers don’t want to leave D.C. and cross over Western Avenue, but they can find houses that are less expensive just over the Maryland border,” says Erich Cabe, a senior vice president with Compass real estate brokerage in Washington. “You can find a nice single-family home in western Bethesda for under $1.2 million that would cost 10 percent more if it was in Spring Valley or Chevy Chase, D.C.”
Changing buyer preferences have led to a shift in prices, Cabe says. While Bethesda gets more and more expensive because of downsizing empty-nesters, houses in Potomac are seeing slight price declines.
“Twenty years ago, people wanted an estate with a pool and a tennis court, but now they’d rather have a nice condo and join a country club for their swimming and tennis,” Cabe says. “Potomac offers a good value now for people who do want two acres and privacy, especially if they don’t have to commute.”
Throughout Montgomery, buyers will find a tight housing market with a limited supply of homes, Strauch says. The number of homes on the market dropped by 25 percent over the two years from February 2016 to February 2018.
New construction in the county includes the Cheval, a 17-story high-rise condo in downtown Bethesda with prices ranging from the $700,000s to more than $3 million.
Bucking the downsizing trend, Lennar is building 36 single-family homes on one-to-four-acre lots at Laytonsville Grove in Laytonsville. The large houses are priced from the upper $700,000s.
“The market for houses on large lots is small, but the supply of new homes on large lots is limited,” says Dan Fulton, a senior vice president with John Burns Consulting in Reston, Va. Other new construction clusters near the Shady Grove Metro station and the Crown planned community, both in Gaithersburg, as well as near the Silver Spring Metro station.
The tight market and limited inventory faced by other counties surrounding Washington, impacts Prince George’s, too, but not as much as most of the region, Strauch says.
The number of active listings in Prince George’s County was down 5 percent in February 2018 compared to February 2017, Strauch says.
“There’s a difference, though, depending on the price range,” Strauch says. “Inventory has been down 15 to 30 percent depending on the month among houses priced under $300,000 in the county. First-time buyers in the region have really been targeting Prince George’s County and clearing out the inventory.”
First-time buyers moving into the county are coming from the District and from Northern Virginia in search of affordability, says Marc Cowan, a real estate agent with Compass real estate brokerage who lives in Fort Washington, Md.
“You’re not going to find a single-family home priced in the $400,000s to the $600,000s in Bethesda or McLean, but you can find one in Prince George’s County,” Cowan says. “We’re also seeing a lot of new development. Construction is starting on a new town square at Suitland that will transform the federal center with townhouses, a senior apartment, retail shops and a performing arts center.”
New construction in the county is replenishing the supply of houses in Prince George’s more than in some other jurisdictions in the region, Fulton says.
“One of the most interesting new developments in Prince George’s County is the Villages of Savannah, where Mid-Atlantic Builders is introducing four different designs for multigenerational families,” Fulton says. “Our Consumer Insights Survey found that home shoppers in Prince George’s County were more likely to expect an extended family member to live with them. Part of the reason is that multiple generations can bring their incomes together to qualify to buy a home.”
Other new developments include new single-family homes by Caruso Homes on one-acre or larger sites at Collingbrook Estates in Bowie, priced from the mid-$600,000s, and at Duvall Woods in Upper Marlboro, priced from the upper $400,000s.
New condominiums are available at the Haven at National Harbor, priced in the $300,000s and $400,000s.
Development also continues in Landover, Greenbelt and Cheverly near Metro stations, Cowan says. He says Prince George’s Plaza Metro station, east of Silver Spring, is appealing to would-be D.C. buyers who can find more affordable prices and still take the Green line into Shaw.
Cowan lives in Fort Washington, where homes can be purchased from $450,000 to $2.5 million for a water view. Two adjacent communities on the Potomac are Battersea on the Bay and Tantallon.
“It’s this tranquil neighborhood on the Potomac with a golf course and a marina, but most people don’t know it exists,” Cowan says. “As long as it’s not rush hour, you can get to Northern Virginia or even to my office in Georgetown in 25 minutes.”
Buyers looking in Maryland this spring may find limited homes for sale, but they can find a wide variety of neighborhoods where they can search.
Coming up next week in the Spring Home Guide: Northern Virginia
●Unlike D.C., suburban Maryland is seeing steady development of single-family home communities.
●The inventory of homes $1 million and above is greater and at a lower price in Montgomery than D.C.
●Prince George’s has been a magnet for first-time buyers.