Apparently Businessweek has even heard of Prince William County’s dirty little secret. In a March 6 article entitled, “ Signs of Life from the Real Estate Market,” Prince William County is highlighted as being abuzz with real estate buyers. That was the good news. Read on hear the bad news:
Across the country in Prince William County, Va., outside Washington D.C., buyers are out in force. The market, where subprime loans and boom-time construction were rampant, was badly damaged in the downturn. Making matters worse, a controversial law in Prince William County that allowed police officers to enforce immigration laws helped drive out many of the Central American immigrants who came in to work on building the new homes during the boom. Many of those immigrants who moved to neighboring Fairfax County allowed their Prince William County homes to go into foreclosure, said John McClain, senior fellow at George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis.
Proximity to D.C. Helps
The good news now is that inventories of unsold homes are shrinking because of the accelerating sales, though homeowners who could afford to have also likely taken their properties off the market, McClain said. In January, 3,346 homes were on the market compared to 5,355 in January, 2007, McClain said. In January, 647 homes sold in Prince William County compared to 312 a year earlier. Home prices, however, fell 34%.
One factor that could help Prince William County toward recovery is its proximity to Washington D.C., one of the few local economies with relatively good prospects thanks to its federal government and defense contractor jobs. Woodbridge, Va., in Prince William County, came in at No. 14 in our ranking. Woodbridge sales jumped 32% in the fourth quarter while median home prices dropped 18% to $215,500, according to First American CoreLogic.
The drop in inventory and the rise in sales are “good signs” for Prince William County, McClain said.
“We are at that point with that trend [in Prince William County] where the economics have to kick in,” McClain said. “Prices have to stabilize and then start up again.”
Erick Blackwelder, associate broker with Exit Realty in Woodbridge, said buyers have flocked to the market and have already bought many of the foreclosed homes that were in good shape. The remaining foreclosures are largely “junk,” he said.
“It started in April 2008,” Blackwelder said. “It was like all of a sudden, somebody flicked on a light switch and there were buyers galore.”
How many people would find Prince William County an attractive place to relocate after reading an article like this one? “To make matters worse….” seems to say it all.