Buyer's Edge Continues; Home Prices Fairly Steady

By Hepner, Ruth | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 26, 1996 | Go to article overview

Buyer's Edge Continues; Home Prices Fairly Steady


Hepner, Ruth, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


It has been a buyer's market in Montgomery County since the early 1990s, when the booming real estate market of the 1980s collapsed.

Although things have picked up some since then, home prices have risen only slightly, if at all, in the past year. This is good news for buyers. It seems as if they will continue to have an edge for a few more years.

The county's lack of job growth, much of which is tied to government cutbacks, is the primary reason home sales have not increased, says marketing consultant Robert Sheehan, vice president of Regis J. Sheehan and Associates. People generally do not buy homes in Montgomery County unless they have jobs there, he says.

The federal government is a major employer in the county, Mr. Sheehan says, and the federal budget plan under consideration would limit spending through the year 2002 or 2003.

Still, Montgomery County is a highly desirable place to live, and there are many glimmers of optimism in the economy.

In Chevy Chase, buyers are plunking down $5,000 each to get on a waiting list for 100 luxury condominiums that are not yet under construction at the Somerset House complex. Top prices there will exceed $1 million.

In Germantown, one of the largest planned developments in the Washington area is about to open a 900,000-square-foot retail center amid 2,000 new homes. Single-family houses, town houses, condominiums and apartments are being built at the Milestone development.

The Somerset House condominium complex is scheduled to open sales in September on Parc Somerset, its third and final building. Prices have not been set, spokeswoman Karel McClellan says, but resale prices in the first two buildings range from $500,000 to $1.8 million. And in the new building, "we intend to deliver larger, more spacious homes, beautifully appointed. There is a reasonable probability that they will be somewhat more [expensive]," she says.

The first building at Somerset House, which has 20 stories and a total of 154 units, sold out in 1985. The second, with 20 stories and 145 units, sold out in 1992. "Very few people have been putting up luxury buildings since then," Miss McClellan says, because "the building market went into quite a slump," but now Somerset House is scheduled to break ground next year for its third building, this one with 17 stories.

Although sales have not opened, Somerset House is taking refundable deposits of $5,000 from prospective buyers who want to put their names on a list, giving them an early choice of units when prices are set. Miss McClellan would not say how many people have signed up, but she says there has been strong interest. The list will be open until early or mid-August, she says.

Somerset House is in the Friendship Heights area, across Wisconsin Avenue from Saks Fifth Avenue. …

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