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Report: D.C.-area housing market strongest in nation

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Photo - Exterior of house with sold sign
Exterior of house with sold sign
Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Matt Connolly

The Washington area is home to the strongest housing market in the country, as home prices nationally soared to a six-year high, according to a national housing report released Tuesday.

The region reached an index of 189.7 in March, on a baseline of 100 taken in January 2000 -- a 7.7 percent jump in home prices over the past year, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices report. The national index hit 136.7, good for a 10.2 percent increase from 2012.

The metropolitan areas experiencing the fastest growth -- Phoenix, San Francisco and Las Vegas -- are all recovering from bottoming out during the foreclosure crisis, according to Craig Lazzara, senior director of S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Where the heart is
Home prices in major metropolitan areas
  March 2013 index One-year change
Washington 189.70 7.7 percent
Los Angeles 186.30 16.6 percent
San Diego 167.84 12.1 percent
New York 161.54 2.6 percent
Miami 155.89 10.7 percent
Boston 155.71 6.7 percent
San Francisco 153.94 22.2 percent
Portland 145.52 12.8 percent
Seattle 145.20 10.6 percent
Tampa 139.91 11.8 percent
Source: S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices

"If you look at who came down the most from peak to trough, Vegas is first, Phoenix is second, and San Francisco is not very far behind," said Lazzara. "It's part of an upturn. The upturn is intact and is strong."

The Washington market took a hit during the crisis, said Sage Policy Group CEO Anirban Basu, but the fall wasn't nearly as hard as it was for other cities.

"At the heart of the explanation for that is the relative stability of the Washington metropolitan area economy during the years of the Great Recession," said Basu. "A lot of this is attributable to an extra large upper-middle class that has historically been supported by well-paying federal jobs and even better federal contracting jobs."

Basu said the main indicator of Washington's robust housing market is its relatively minuscule inventory of available homes.

Median home sale prices in the District and Arlington hit record highs this year, according to RealEstate Business Intelligence, with the former hitting $470,000 and the latter hitting $560,000.

While real estate agents are seeing many houses disappear in mere days, not every home follows that pattern, according to D.C. agent Harry Moore. He said he saw one house in northern Arlington garner multiple offers and sell after only three days on the market, while

another in southern Arlington has sat unsold for months.

"Inventory's really short everywhere, but it's especially short in certain areas," said Moore. "In general, though, days on market is down, and you're seeing more multiple offers."

He added that more local residents might be willing to sell if housing values continue rising.

"The market's starting to firm up, but it may be a while before some of those people are able to sell their house even though they'd like to," said Moore. "If appreciation continues, some of those people will get off the fence."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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