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House Prices Rose 10.3% Across Region in 2001

Home prices rose throughout the Washington area last year, reflecting a national housing market that remained robust despite a sluggish overall economy.

The median sales price for single-family houses and town houses in the region increased 10.3% in 2001 compared to with the year before, to $210,000 from $190,340, according to a Washington Post analysis based on government sales records.

The regions highest median sales price was in Arlington, at $290,000, and the lowest was in Prince Georges County, at $154,000.

The median point is the point at which half the prices are higher and half the prices are lower.

The study covered 11 counties and cities and a handful of small independent municipalities, in an area stretching from Anne Arundel County in the east to Loudoun County in the west, and from Howard County in the north to Prince William and Charles counties in the south.

The analysis excluded condominiums. It also excluded sales of commercial buildings, unimproved land and other non-standard transactions.

Of the jurisdictions studied, the only one with a drop in median sales price was Howard County, where prices fell 1.9%.

The price increases were most modest in Maryland, where the median for the jurisdictions studied rose 2.9% TO $180,000 from $175,000 in 2002. In contrast, the median price in Virginia jurisdictions jumped 11.7 percent to $240,075. In the District, the median rose 10.5% to $187,900 from $170,000.

The results are similar to those in studies conducted by other organizations, even though the methodologies and the region covered differ somewhat. For instance, the National Association of Realtors pegged the median price of a house in the Washington area in 2001 at $212,700 vs. the Posts $210,000.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which tracks home-value appreciation by watching resales and refinancings of individual houses, reported this month that the values in the Washington area rose 11.09 percent this year.

Shifts in median price are influenced not only by price appreciation, but also shifts in the type of housing purchased.

Median prices are an unreliable measure when comparing a small number of transactions. The effect shows up when examining The Posts Zip-code-by Zip-code breakdowns. The most dramatic price swings are almost all in areas with just a few transactions and thus are probably not significant.

Reprint 2002 The Washington Post Company