Advice on Home Inspection Negotiations

Question: We just finished out home inspection and are a bit overwhelmed by the list of recommended repairs. How do we know what to ask for and what’s reasonable to expect from the seller?

Answer: As we head into the colder months and the market slows down a bit, buyers will start picking up more leverage to include home inspection contingencies with the right to negotiate, not just the right to void. I thought it would be helpful timing to revisit some tips, applicable for buyers and sellers, on home inspection negotiations.

Inspection negotiations can be frustrating for both parties so it’s helpful to establish some ground-rules heading into negotiations. Unless you’re buying a new home, you should expect the inspection to turn up at least a handful of items and you’ll need to quickly and reasonably determine which items are the responsibility of the seller or buyer.

What Is A Home Inspection?

After ratifying (signed by both parties) a contract to purchase a home, most buyers will hire a home inspector to inspect the entire home and produce a report of any issues/risks, from foundation cracks to missing door stops.

Depending on the contract terms, the buyer usually has the right to negotiate for repairs or credits, based on the results of the inspection, and the right to void if an agreement can’t be reached OR no negotiation period, just a right to void (aka a Pass/Fail Inspection). In either case, if the buyer voids under the terms of the inspection contingency, they will receive their full deposit back.

What Should You Look For?

In my opinion, the goal of an inspection is to ensure that the property is in the condition both sides expected while negotiating the purchase price. Items that have a material impact on the value of the home should be on the table for negotiation.

Generally, you can divide findings into big-ticket items that impact the value of the home and must be addressed and smaller punch-list items that are good housekeeping practices. The big-ticket items I look for during an inspection are:

  • Structural Flaws
  • Water Penetration
  • Safety Hazards
  • Inoperability (e.g. AC not working)
System Life Expectancy

You should also determine the age of major systems like the roof, windows, appliances, HVAC, and water heater prior to making your offer, and verify these are accurate during the inspection. Make sure you’re clear on the projected life expectancy of these systems while you’re negotiating the purchase price and factor this information into your offer. You’ll have a tough time convincing most sellers they’re on the hook for crediting you the cost of a 17-year-old water heater if that information was made available prior to your offer, assuming the system is working.

What Can You Ask For?

Negotiations can include all sorts of solutions, but most frequently the conversation is about whether a seller will handle the repairs or provide the buyer a credit (against closing costs) instead. Often times an inspection agreement includes both – a credit for some items and a request to fix/replace others. Sellers must use licensed contractors and provide works receipts for any work they do.

In general, if something you’re asking for involves personal preference or you want to have control over the quality of the result, it’s best to ask for a credit and handle it yourself. For example, if the deck is falling apart and needs to be replaced, you don’t want the seller managing the design and construction of a new deck so ask for a credit for the replacement cost and make sure you’re getting the deck you want.

Inspections Don’t Need To Be Contentious

Inspections are one of the most common points of contention between buyers and sellers, but with the right preparation and expectations going in, it can be a smooth process that both sides are happy with. Like the negotiations you had on the sale contract, the inspection period is also a negotiation that requires both parties to be understanding and reasonable to reach a win/win.

Starting Your 2021 Home Search

Question: We are looking forward to buying our first home in 2021. Do you have any recommendations on how we should start the home buying process?

Answer: Google “home buyer tips” or “what to know before buying a home” and you’ll find plenty of advice on the topic, so I’ll include some suggestions I don’t see on most of those lists and also put my own spin on others that you have heard before.

 

Weighted Criteria

It’s easy to come up with 3-5 things that are most important to you, but challenge yourself early to come up with 12-15 things that are important to you. Then give yourself 100 points and allocate points to each based on how important they are to you and you’ll end up with a weighted criteria list to help you focus your search and objectively compare properties.

If you want to take it to the next level, bring your weighted criteria list with you on showings and score each house out of the total points allocated to it.

 

Length of Ownership

This is one of the most important conversations to have with yourself/your partner. You should focus on the following:

  1. Likely length of ownership
  2. Difference in criteria for a 3-5 year house vs a 10-12+ year house
  3. Difference in budget requirements for a 3-5 year house vs a 10-12+ year house

 

Appreciation is not guaranteed and difficult to predict, but the value of longer ownership periods is undisputed. One way longer ownership adds value is the potential for eliminating one or more real estate transactions, and the associated costs (fees, taxes, moving expenses, new furniture, etc) and stress that comes with moving, over the course of your lifetime.

If you have an opportunity to significantly increase your length of ownership by stretching your budget, it’s often justifiable. On the other hand, if your budget or future plans restrict you to housing that’s likely to be suitable for just 3-4 years (and buying now still makes sense), it’s generally better to stay under budget.

 

Influencers (not the Instagram ones)

Family, friends, colleagues…they’re all happy to offer opinions and contribute to your home buying process, but the input can be overwhelming and unproductive if you don’t set boundaries. Try to determine up-front who you want involved in the process and how you’d like them to be involved.

Think about how you’ve made other major decisions in life – what college to attend, what kind of car to buy, where to get married, whether to change jobs – and if you’re the type of person who likes input from your friends and family, you’ll likely do the same when buying a house. Plan ahead with those influencers so their input is productive.

 

Does Your House Exist?

Before jumping too far into the search process, spend a little bit of time searching For Sale and Sold homes on your favorite real estate search website/app to see if the homes selling in the area you want and within 10% of your upper budget are at least close to what you’re looking for. If not, spend some time adjusting price, location, and non-critical criteria to figure out what high-level compromises you’ll need to make and then compare those compromises to your current living situation and/or continuing to rent.

 

Know Your Market

We’re in a strong seller’s market for single-family and townhouses right now with low supply, high demand, and increasing prices, but the condo market is becoming more favorable for buyers.

Each sub-market behaves a bit differently and comes with its own unique set of challenges and opportunities, so take time early on to understand the sub-market(s) you’ll be involved in and what you’re likely to experience. This is something your agent should be able to assist with.

 

Pre-Approval & Budget

There is a lot of value in working with a lender early on in the search process. For starters, you’ll have somebody who can provide real rates and advice based on your specific financial situation/needs. A lender can only do this if they’ve reviewed your financial documents and credit. The more you put in, the more you get out.

You’ll need to have a lender pre-approval to submit an offer (seller has to know you qualify for the purchase you’re offering to make) so if you have to do it anyway, why not doing it early on so you get the most value out of your lender? It also means that you’ll be prepared to make an offer if you find the right home before you expect to be ready.

Given how competitive the Arlington/Northern VA/DMV real estate market is, the quality of your pre-approval can make a big difference when you make an offer. You should strongly consider partnering with a local lender with a great reputation to give yourself an advantage (or not put you at a disadvantage) when making an offer. Pre-approval letters from big banks and online lenders don’t go over as well in our market. If you’re looking for a recommendation, consider Jake Ryon of First Home Mortgage (JRyon@firsthome.com).

 

Find an Agent

The least surprising suggestion on this list! Agents come in many different forms and finding somebody who suits your personality and goals is important. Ask friends, colleagues, and family for referrals and meet with multiple people until you find the right fit.

The worst thing you can do is choose your agent based on whoever responds to an online showing request faster. A good agent can provide a ton of value being involved in your buying process 3-6+ months before you’re ready to buy. Be wary of anybody who wants you to “wait until you’re ready” before working with you.

 

If you’re considering buying (or selling) in the DMV in 2021 and would like to meet, feel free to email me at Eli@EliResidential.com!

Housing Market Update, Condo Slide Continues

Question: Last month you wrote about troubling signs in the condo market. Do you see things leveling off or getting worse?

Answer: The trends I wrote about last month – shifting demand in single-family housing out west and troubling signs in the Arlington/DC condo market – continued through September with the developing changes in the condo market being the most noticeable. Let’s take a look at what we’re seeing in the housing market through September…

Arlington/DC Condo Inventory Piling Up

The number of condos listed for sale in Arlington during September (261) ranks as the 2nd most in any month over the last 10+ years, trailing a record-setting April 2016 volume (268) by just seven. The last time we had this much active condo inventory on the market in Arlington was September 2017 and you have to go back to September 2016 for a month with higher Months of Supply (measure of supply and demand).

Our neighbors in DC blew past all-time highs over the last 10+ years with 969 condos listed for sale, well above the record set this past July (863). Three of the four months with 750+ condo listings in DC have taken place in the last three months. You have to go back to June 2011 for a month with more active condo inventory in DC and July 2012 for a month with higher Months of Supply.

Fairfax and Loudoun County Condos Doing Fine/Better

While Fairfax and Loudoun County condo markets are seeing a similar late-season surge in listings, those markets are doing a better job of absorbing the inventory, so Months of Supply measures are still much more favorable for sellers with Fairfax County getting only slightly worse in 2020 and Loudoun County actually getting even more competitive.

Arlington Single-Family Market Stable

Arlington’s single-family market remains stable and is more reflective of the slight slowdown we expect around this time of the year, especially one month from an election. Single-family homes are still selling at peak prices, albeit sometimes with slightly higher days on market and fewer offers than earlier in the year.

We’re experiencing unusually high listing volume for this time of year, but that was expected given how little inventory was listed this spring/early summer. The number of single-family homes listed for sale in the 3rd Quarter of 2020 is up 42.5% over Q3 2019, but active listings are up just 2.1% for the same period, suggesting that the market has had no problems absorbing the extra inventory…and higher prices.

Sellers have not missed the memo that prices and demand are up in Arlington for single-family homes. September is the first month in 2020 that the median asking price of active single-family listings dropped below $1.5M.

I hope you’ve found this market overview interesting and/or helpful. If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to set-up an in-person meeting to discuss local Real Estate, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

ROI On Pre-Listing Home Improvements

Question: We are planning to put our townhouse on the market this spring and wondering if you have any advice on how we should choose what improvements we should or should not make prior to listing.

Answer: The decisions you make on what money you do or do not spend improving your home prior to a sale often influence your bottom line more than any other decision you make during the sale process. They’re also the decisions you’re most in control of, so take your time and take them seriously.

Remodeling.com publishes an annual report showing the resale return of specific remodeling jobs, based on region of the country. Unfortunately, I can’t share the DC-area report here because of copyright issues, but it’s worth going to the link (you have to provide them some basic info) to take a look yourself. The findings of their report show that the majority of projects, done individually, return just 50-80% of the cost. I have seen another study by Zillow that shows similar projections.

Note that I said when “done individually” most projects return well below 100% of the money spent, but when you combine the right improvements you can create value/profit that can add to your bottom line.

Tier Your Improvements

After you prepare a full list of potential improvements, it’s important to bucket them into tiers and analyze each tier for cost, project timeline, and impact on the expected resale value to determine which improvements make the most sense. At a high level, these tiers generally fall into three categories:

  • Clean-out, Clean-up: This focuses on the low cost, high return items to make a home more presentable such painting, deep cleaning, repairs, light landscaping, etc
  • Bring up to par: Investing in one/some more expensive projects to bring them up to par with the rest of the home. For example, improving a dated kitchen if the rest of the home is updated so that the kitchen doesn’t drag down the value of the other improvements or replacing damaged hardwood floors.
  • Remodel/Homeowner Flip: Similar to what an investor might do to a dated home in an expensive neighborhood, a homeowner might choose to make a major investment into updates and benefit from a significant profit
Consider All Costs

The cost of doing improvements goes beyond the cost of the labor and materials. Don’t forget to consider things like:

  • Your time managing the work
  • Inconvenience of having work done while you’re living in the home
  • Carrying cost while work is being done, if the home is vacant
  • Risk of something going wrong during the work (applies more to larger projects)
100%+ ROI

There’s no doubt that remodeling your bathroom will generate a higher sale price, but it’s rarely advisable to invest money into improvements if you won’t return more than 100% on the investment. Herein lies the challenge and strategy in planning your improvements. Understanding the profile of your likely buyers and what they value is crucial to making investments that generate profit, not just a higher price.

If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to set-up an in-person meeting to discuss local Real Estate, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com.

Condo Smoking Ban Update

Question: Do you have any updates on how smoking bans are going in Arlington condo buildings?

Answer: In 2016, I wrote a column on condo smoking bans as my fellow 1800 Wilson Board members and I explored a smoking ban within our community. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting members of our condo communities that have been instrumental in clearing the path for healthier, more welcoming condo buildings by navigating the complex rules and challenges of banning smoking in condo units and on private balconies (banning smoking in common areas is easy).

The process of implementing a smoking ban is long, difficult, and time-consuming for those involved, but it is possible. I’m aware of at least 10 buildings in Arlington and Alexandria that have already passed, or are in the process of passing, amendments to their by-laws to ban smoking inside units and on balconies. Some of those communities I know of off-hand are (I know I’m missing a few):

  • Hyde Park (Ballston)
  • Wentworth Place (Virginia Square)
  • Carlyle House (Columbia Pike)
  • Lyon Pointe (Lyon Village)
  • Horizon House (Pentagon City) *I believe they’re in process
  • Carlyle Towers (Alexandria)
  • The Towers (NW DC)

For those of you interested in pursuing a smoking ban within your condo community, I recorded the panel discussion I hosted last year and you can watch it on YouTube here. It’s a long video (almost two hours), but it provides a highly detailed roadmap and great lessons learned from members of the community who have gone through the process already. I also have some materials from the meeting that I would be more than happy to email to anybody who wants it. Just email me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

For those of you considering a smoking ban effort, it’s important to understand a few things before you get started:

  • It usually takes 18-24+ months
  • It requires a by-law change, which usually requires at least 2/3 “yes” votes (non-votes are the same as “no” votes)
  • Start with an informal survey of the community to see if you have enough support to reach 2/3
  • Documentation and organization are critical
  • Prepare to have an attorney involved throughout the process
  • Some communities must compromise on a Grandfather Clause in order to get the necessary votes, but Grandfather Clauses are not required

I love hearing from people in communities who are making progress towards a smoke-free building, so please reach out to share your successes and frustrations!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to set-up an in-person meeting to discuss local Real Estate, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com.

Single-Family Demand Shifting From City to Suburb

Question: Have you seen a shift in single-family home preferences away from DC/Arlington further out into Northern VA?

Answer: Last week, I wrote about a clear shift in Arlington’s (and DC’s) condo market as historically high volumes of inventory have come to market and demand has tapered off. I received some follow-up questions about how the single-family market compares so this week we’ll take a look at some of the trends in single-family detached (SFD) homes in DC, Arlington, Fairfax County, and Loudon County.

Across all markets, demand and competition for SFD homes is high, but there is a clear shift in preferences for SFD housing further away from the city that we’ve never seen before. Both Fairfax County and Loudon County have reached all-time highs in absorption and all-time low months of supply.

Suburban Absorption Rate Sky-Rockets

The absorption rate, a strong metric for demand, has almost always been higher in DC and Arlington than in Fairfax and Loudon Counties. An absorption rate of 1.0 equal one home under contract for every home listed for sale and great than 1.0 means homes are going off the market faster than they’re being put in the market.

The first chart shows a dramatic increase in the absorption rate in Fairfax and Loudon Counties since June, far outpacing the DC and Arlington markets. Loudon County, the furthest/least densely populated of the four markets was on fire in August, with an already high absorption rate increasing nearly 50% over July.

Check out the difference between the Arlington County and Loudon County 10-year Absorption Rate in the second and third charts below.

Listing Volume Up Seasonally

One of the trends that stood out in last week’s condo analysis is the historically high volume of listings that came to market in July and August, ranking among the highest of any month in the last 10+ years. While the volume of SFD listings is up in July and August compared to past summer months, volume is still well below peak spring listing volume.

The year-over-year change in SFD listing volume in Arlington for July and August is pretty extreme (see second chart below) simply because of how low volume was in 2019 due to the Amazon HQ2 announcement, but the numbers still fall well below a normal spring market.

Historically Low Months of Supply in Suburbs

Months of Supply, a great supply/demand metric, is something I watch closely to predict price movement. The lower the Months of Supply, the more upwards pressure there is on prices.

Months of Supply for SFD homes in Fairfax and Loudon Counties has blown through 10+ year historical lows (first and second charts) and shows no sign of slowing down (prices likely rising rapidly), while Months of Supply has tapered off and even increased slightly in Arlington (third chart), a sign that prices might be stabilizing. Months of Supply in Arlington is still way too low to create a buyer’s market where prices might start dropping.

I hope you’ve found this analysis interesting and/or helpful. If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

The Shifting Condo Market

Question: I’ve seen a lot more condos come to market and also some staying on market longer than before, is that part of a larger trend in the condo market?

Answer: In July, I predicted there would be a surge in housing inventory that was held off the market this spring because of COVID. That has proven to be moderately correct for single-family housing and very accurate for condos. The market has had no trouble absorbing the extra single-family housing, albeit with less competition than before, but the condo market has not absorbed the extra inventory and has undergone a significant shift in the last two months.

In short, listing volume for Arlington condos reached historically high levels in July and August, absorption (demand) is down, and months of supply is the highest it’s been since the fall of 2017.

Historically High Listing Volume

July (253 listings) and August (229 listings) had the 5th and 13th highest months for listing volume in the last ten years. Prior to this year, the top fifteen months for condo listing volume fell in April or May (peak demand offsets higher listing activity), with the exception of June 2015. This is the first time that the number of condos listed in July or August has ever exceeded 200.

Pre-Amazon HQ2 Demand

Since Amazon announced plans for HQ2 in November 2018, condo demand was through the roof with 15 straight months of more condos going under contract than listed for sale (over 1.0 in the chart below), beginning January 2019. Absorption levels, a strong indicator of demand, are now more reflective of 2016-2017 which brought very little real appreciation in the condo market.

Monitor Months of Supply

The Months of Supply metric combines inventory levels and rate of absorption (supply and demand). It measures how long it would take to sell out of existing inventory given the current pace of sales. Most housing economists say that ~6 months of supply is needed for a well-balanced housing market, a number we’ve never come close to in Arlington.

Given that it takes ~6 months of supply for a balanced market, Arlington is still very much a seller’s market, but nowhere close to what it’s been over the last two years. In August, Months of Supply exceeded 2.25, higher than it’s been since October 2017 (2.32). Compare that to December 2018 – March 2020 with an average of .67 (just over two weeks of supply) and high of .88, and it becomes clear why many buyers and sellers are experiencing a different market now than they were as recently as June.

Condo Market Stronger Across Northern VA

The rest of Northern VA also experienced an increase in condo supply in July and August, but not nearly to the extent of Arlington. Absorption (demand) has also remained pretty close to the strong numbers seen since January 2019. As a result, Months of Supply for the entire Northern VA condo market has increased slightly over the last two months and fits normal seasonal patterns.

What About Washington DC?

It’s worth noting that while the overall Northern VA condo market is performing well, the Washington DC condo market looks more like Arlington. In July and August, Month of Supply (2.73 and 2.80, respectively) reached the highest levels since October 2012 and were the first and third highest monthly listing volume over the last ten years. July (863 condo listings) is the first time in over a decade that more than 800 listings came to market. Previously, the record was 762 set in September 2019. There were 757 condos listed for sale in August.

What’s Next?

It’s still too early to know if/how prices will be affected, but it almost certainly means longer days on market and fewer multiple offer scenarios. The effect on pricing will likely depend on whether this is a short-term shift that will correct itself come Q1 2021 or a more long-term change in urban buying patterns. My money is on this being short-term and the market returning closer to its two-year averages by February or March 2021.

In the meantime, I think we’re in for a frustrating few months for many condo owners due to the combination of surging listing volume (increased supply), an upcoming Presidential election (fear of an unknown future), and uncertainty around the timing of a widely available COVID vaccine (less demand for multi-family/urban living).

If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

Why Is My Neighbor Mowing My Lawn

Question: My neighbor is mowing a portion of the lawn I thought was mine, but my neighbor claims it is his. Is this something I can prove through my title work?

Answer: Clients often ask me whether or not they should purchase a property survey, which is optional, when they buy their home. I think that in almost every case it is worth the relatively small investment (usually about $300-$400 for a standard survey). I was chatting with the folks at Universal Title, my preferred title company in Northern Virginia (they also serve DC and MD), and heard a story about somebody who did not order a survey and ended up incorrectly assuming that a section of land was theirs. Given how frequently I am asked about ordering surveys, I thought it was a good opportunity to share the story and provide some reasons why it’s a good idea to order a survey when you buy a home. Take it away Universal Title…

A new homeowner noticed a neighbor mowing part of her front lawn. When she asked the neighbor why he was mowing her lawn, the neighbor replied the property he was mowing belonged to him, even though the line of trees separating the two houses looked as if the property belonged to the new homeowner. She called her title agent and found out the neighbor was correct. “How can that be? Didn’t you search my property?”

Unfortunately, the new homeowner did not understand the difference between a title search and a survey and failed to purchase a survey. A title search confirms ownership of property, but it does not show the details of the property location.

A survey is a map of real property that shows where the property is located on the earth, the boundary lines of the property, the improvements on the land and access to the property.

FIVE GREAT REASONS TO PURCHASE A SURVEY
  1. Undisclosed Rights and Easements: You may own your new home and its surrounding land, but someone else might have a right to use a portion of your property. A survey will show physical evidence of the rights of others to use your property for access, parking, utilities, and other situations.
  2. Undiscovered Encroachments: A survey may be the only way to tell if a third party holds a claim to part of your property because their improvements such as a garage, fence, or swimming pool, are on your land.
  3. House Built on Incorrect Lot: It may seem impossible, but sometimes a house is built on the wrong lot. A survey provides peace of mind by showing the exact location of the house you are buying.
  4. Size of the Property: A survey shows the exact dimensions of the property’s boundary lines and how much land is included within those lines.
  5. Adding on in the Future: Many residential platted lots have building restrictions known as setbacks which prohibit building anything within a certain distance from the boundary lines. If you are thinking of adding on in the future, a survey will help you determine if the property is right for both your current and future plans.

Thank you for sharing the story and information Universal Title. I’d also like to add that you can order a survey at any time if you did not do so when you purchased. If you are in need of a survey, planning to sell or purchase a home and would like to work with a great Title company, or have title questions in general I highly recommend reaching out to Universal Title.

Arlington’s (Free) Green Home Choice Program

Question: Do you have any recommendations or resources to help us improve our home’s energy efficiency?

Answer: Last year, Arlington released its Community Energy Plan, setting forth the goal of becoming Carbon Neutral by 2050. To support that mission, Arlington offers the Green Home Choice Program (GHC), which is a free program that helps homeowners, builders, and designers create a more energy efficient and environmentally conscious home. I spoke with Helen Reinecke-Wilt, who manages and personally oversees each project, about the program and its benefits.

What You Get?

Helen and her team provide a free consultation/audit and a detailed, customized guide with the materials and construction requirements that will ensure your home is healthier and more efficient. After the work is complete, you are eligible for an official Green Home Certification from Arlington County, which is similar to LEED Certification common in many commercial buildings (offices and apartments).

Who Qualifies?

Small and big budgets alike! The program is available to everybody from homeowners interested in making small, energy-conscious improvements to builders designing a custom home. If you are building a home, it’s a great idea to have your builder work with Helen and her team! The earlier you involve the GHC program, the more they can do for you.

Benefits

  • New homes that are GHC-certified use 42% less energy than non-certified new homes, which equates to a savings of $1600 per year on utilities
  • Renovated homes that are GHC-certified use 55% less energy per square foot with an average utility savings of $600 per year
  • Studies have shown (and here) that 90% of home buyers consider a home’s energy efficiency “very important” in their search criteria and are willing to pay a premium for more efficient homes. The lack of certified green homes means that your new or renovated home will stand out in the market.
  • Healthier air, a more durable home, and lower utilities
  • Eligible for StormwaterWise grant money
  • Satisfaction of knowing that you are contributing positively to a healthier, more sustainable community

Cost

The consultation/audit and guidance come at no cost. Depending on the scope of the project, the upgraded construction materials and methods generally add an extra $10k-$20k to the project, however, in many cases builders or homeowners already plan to use similar materials so the added cost is less.

To receive the official Green Home Choice Certification, there’s a $1,500 fee to test your homes efficiency to make sure it meets the requirements to be certified. In my opinion, builders and homeowners will see a significant ROI on this investment, especially for new homes which currently have an average price of nearly $1.9M. Over 350 homes in Arlington have been certified, but many people use the GHC guidance and choose not to complete the certification.

Helen and her team understand that not everybody has the resources to invest tens of thousands of dollars into a GHC certified home and want to make smaller/cheaper, yet effective improvements to their home’s energy efficiency. She prides herself on being able to make these types of recommendations for homeowners after doing an audit of their existing home so don’t shy away from working with her just because you aren’t building a new house or undergoing major renovations!

Thank you Helen and the Green Home Choice team for your contributions to a cleaner, more sustainable community! If you’re interested in working with their team, you can get started by reaching out to them at energy@arlingtonva.us or 703-228-4792.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to set-up an in-person meeting to discuss local Real Estate, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Arlington Condo Mid-Year Real Estate Review

Question: How did Arlington’s real estate market perform in the first half of 2020?

Answer: What a wild year it’s been for real estate. After a huge 2019 (SFH/TH review, Condo review), the 2020 market took off in January with prices and competition up sharply. When Coronavirus hit, that momentum tapered off for a couple of months but prices remained steady because of low interest rates and low supply. The Arlington housing supply was down about 400 listings from March-June, but listing activity is surging to historically high levels in July and August, which is traditionally when we see the spring market momentum slow down.

Let’s take a look at how the condo market performed in the first half of 2020 using some awesome charts developed by my new partner, the wonderful Alli Torban. We took a similar look at single-family detached and townhouses last week.

Note that all of the data used in these charts is based on sales that went under contract from January-June in order to provide the most accurate reflection of the market during the first 6 months. I don’t like using the date a home sold/closed for analysis like this because closing date often lags 30-60 days behind agreement of sale (contract). I also removed sales of condos in 900 N Taylor St (The Jefferson), an age-restricted community.

Average and median price continued to rise, but not by nearly as much as last year. The total condos transacted in the first six months of 2020 dropped significantly to 484 from a previous 5-year low of 614, established in 2019.

The Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, made up of 2201, 22203, and 22209 is by far the busiest condo market in Arlington and 22204 offers the most affordable options, by a significant margin.

The volume of one- and two-bedroom condo sales was nearly equal during the first six months, but I’ve seen a shift over the last few years in buyer demand over the last few years towards two-bedrooms.

Studios/efficiencies (no separate bedroom) are very difficult to come by in Arlington with very few being delivered over the last 20 years. The Eclipse in Crystal City and Trafalgar Flats along Columbia Pike were notable for delivering an unusually high number of studios in the last 20 years.

The demand for larger condos with three-bedrooms has increased significantly over the last 3-5 years as owners of large homes have looked to downsize. However, the market is severely undersupplied with units that meet the needs of these buyers, with just 18 three-bedroom condos selling in the first half of the year.

One of the measures I like taking to gauge market competition is the percentage of condos going under contract within the first week and how much buyers are paying relative to the asking price within that window. An incredible 36% of condo contracts were accepted within the first week this year and the average buyer paid 1.5% more than the asking price to secure a home that just hit the market.

The key takeaways are that good condos sell very quickly and if you love a unit that has just hit the market, be prepared to pay the asking price or more to secure it because if you don’t, there’s a good chance somebody else will.

As the chart above showed, this is a fast-paced market and it got even faster in 2020 with the median days on market for condos remaining at six days and the average dropping to just two weeks.

I took a similar look at single-family detached and townhouses last week. If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.