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Single-family homes in Washington County, with a farm in the foreground and mountains behind.

Home, $weet Home: Real estate market defying national trends

There are very few places in the country where home prices have held their value over the last few years, but Washington County is one of them.

Washington County and its neighboring counties that make up the Johnson City Metropolitan Area have been blessed with very stable home prices as much of the country has suffered greatly in the housing crisis.

The latest Home Price Index from the Federal Housing Finance Administration shows the metro area continuing to shine statistically. Out of 309 metro areas, Johnson City (Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties) ranked 12th for 5-year appreciation. Home prices increased by 14.77 percent here between the fourth quarter of 2005 and the fourth quarter of 2010.

That puts Washington County in the top 4 percent nationally, and compares to a national average decline of 11.45 percent. It means an average home worth $200,000 in 2005 is now worth about $229,000 in the Johnson City metro area, while nationally, an average home worth $200,000 five years ago is worth about $177,000.

In the past year, prices rose 0.74 percent in the metro area here, ranking 46th out of 309. Of the 11 metro areas with higher five-year appreciation, only one (Bismarck, ND) had a better one-year performance, so Johnson City is continuing to rise in the long-term rankings. Nationally, prices were down 3.95 percent from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2010.