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The Washington Scene

January Kicks Off Home-Sale Season

January 27, 1985|JOHN BETZ WILLMANN | Special to The Times

WASHINGTON — "It's not a phenomenon; it's a fact.

"People in the Washington area begin to look seriously at new homes almost as soon as they've taken down their Christmas trees and exchanged holiday gifts that didn't fit," according to Charles Langpaul of the Ryland Group, which builds many medium priced houses.

All phases of residential housing are expected to resume, full blast, because late-January marks the true beginning of the serious new home-buying season in this area. Joseph Sprows, a sales executive for U.S. Home Corp here, added: "The really strong selling season for new houses begins in mid-January and continues through April, and maybe into May. Actually, the bulk of the new home selling is done in the first three months of the year--at least in terms of looking, deciding and signing sales contracts. The deals are closed later, after move-up buyers have sold their present homes and after the first-time buyers have had time to make all the needed financial arrangements, which often includes getting help from parents."

In terms of new home production and sales, the capital area has had two fantastic years back to back. Preliminary figures, according to reliable Housing Data Reports, Inc. shows about 28,000 net deals for single family houses, town houses and condo apartments in 1984--the same as in 1983.

With housing being reasonably regarded as a good barometer on the nation's total economy, the Washington area has to be strong. The sales of new dwellings in 1983 and 1984 were higher by 5,000 than in booming 1979 when 23,000 deals were consummated for new dwellings.

Meanwhile, a new profile of new home buyers, developed by the National Assn. of Home Builders, disclosed that the percentage of first-time buyers declined from 48% to 40% on the total market in the year ending June, 1984. However, this percentage is still higher than was the ratio of first-time buyers in the mid-1970s and the early 1980s. The other buyers, of course, are called upgrading or move-up purchasers. Their percentage peaked at 70% in 1979 and dropped to 60% last year.

Also, single persons (both males and females) accounted for 13% of the houses bought by first-time purchasers, whereas they made up only 4% of the purchasers doing it for the second (or more) time. Not unexpectedly, first-time buyers are younger than upgrading purchasers of new houses. First timers have a median age of 30 years against 35 for move-uppers. Among the first timers, about 86% of the heads of households were under 35 years of age, in contrast with only 36% of the upgrading buyers.

The combined household income for first buyers was $34,755, compared to $43,590 for upgrading buyers. Among "virgin" buyers, 62% moved within the same county and 29% moved from one county to another in the same state. Only 9% made purchases in another state. Only 46% of move-up buyers remained in the same county and 30% moved to another state.

SHORTLY: Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) has told Navy Times that he will introduce legislation to help service people buy or rent homes off-base in very-high-cost areas (such as Washington and Los Angeles). Wilson added that he is considering permitting land-heavy military bases to lease some of their surplus land to private builders who would pledge to create more rental housing for military personnel.

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