Deep Dive into Arlington’s Townhouse Market

Question: I need more living space and single-family homes are out of my budget, so I’ve been searching for townhouses in Arlington, but finding that the options are limited. Can you provide some guidance on what the townhouse market in Arlington looks like?

Answer: I spend a lot of time digging into the condo and single-family home markets, but not much time on the townhouse/duplex market. Why? Because townhouses and duplexes make up such a small part of our housing inventory. According to this Missing Middle Study, townhouses and duplexes make up just 5.9% of Arlington’s housing inventory (3.7% are townhouses).

Fortunately (for some), we’ve recently had an unusual surge in new townhouse developments hit the market including:

  • Arlington Heights: 27 townhouses developed by NV Homes, walking distance to the East Falls Church Metro, ranging in price from about $1.1M-$1.4M
  • Trenton Square: 19 townhouses developed by Madison Homes, near the intersection of Rt 50 (north side) and Glebe and a short distance to Ballston, starting at around $1M
  • Morrison Hill: 17 townhouses developed by Beazer Homes, near the intersection of Columbia Pike and George Mason (across from the new Harris Teeter), ranging in price from about $800k-$900k+
  • Towns of 24th: 8 townhouses developed by Evergreene Homes, in the Nauck neighborhood near the intersection of 395 and Glebe, starting in the mid-$800s
  • Park Nelson: 3 townhouses developed by District Line Development, in the Nauck neighborhood, ranging from $900k to $935k.
  • Townes at South Glebe: 16 townhouses across two sites developed by Christopher Companies, off of S Glebe between Columbia Pike and Shirlington, with prices starting in the upper $800s

Explanation of Data

For the data below, I looked at sales of townhouse and duplex properties over the last five years (except the last chart). I decided to separate these properties into ownership type: Condominium and Fee Simple.

Condominium ownership is generally used in multi-family buildings (apartment-style), but was popular in many of South Arlington’s townhouse communities in the mid 1900s. In condominium ownership, the HOA is generally responsible for what’s outside the walls of the home (roof, fencing, some plumbing, etc) and HOA fees are therefore (significantly) higher.

Fee Simple ownership means that you own the entire structure and the land your home sits on. The HOA fees are usually much lower because there’s less common ownership.

Over the last five years, we’ve had a nearly 50/50 split between condo and fee simple townhouse/duplex sales.

5-Year Townhouse Market Performance

Unsurprisingly, the townhouse/duplex market has followed the same general trends as the rest of the housing market, with a strong 2018, followed by a white hot 2019 and 2020, where the average townhouse/duplex sold for more than the asking price and 60% or more of homes listed sold within the first week.

Here are a few highlights from the data below:

  • There are a few ways of looking at appreciation here, but overall, the data suggests the townhouse/duplex market has appreciated ~20% in the last five years, with most of that coming in the last two years
  • The apparent drop in market value, by average sold price, of Fee Simple in 2019 is a misrepresentation of the market and due to the difference in the distribution of sales (more inexpensive/fewer expensive listings), the $/sqft tells a more accurate story for 2018-2019 Fee Simple pricing
  • The ~10% appreciation of the Condominium townhouse/duplex market (smaller, older, and less expensive than the Fee Simple market) in 2020 is likely due to buyer demand shifting away from similarly priced apartment-style condos in buildings towards private entry townhouse/duplex living with easier access to outdoor space (COVID related)
  • While quite different in size, price, age, and HOA fees, the Condominium and Fee Simple styles of townhouse/duplex ownership generally move in close parallel
Year Sold / Ownership TypeAvg Sold PriceAvg $/sqftAvg Sold to Org Ask $% Sold <7 days# Sold
2016$587,687$34999.0%39%441
Condominium$473,288$33398.8%38%260
Fee Simple$752,016$38199.4%42%181
2017$617,917$34599.1%40%558
Condominium$486,161$33399.4%43%313
Fee Simple$786,243$36798.8%36%245
2018$632,371$36799.2%45%533
Condominium$501,229$35899.3%47%292
Fee Simple$791,265$38199.2%44%241
2019$642,569$413101.0%60%481
Condominium$502,037$385101.4%63%220
Fee Simple$761,025$436100.7%57%261
2020$703,644$435100.4%62%561
Condominium$552,263$416100.8%61%267
Fee Simple$841,123$453100.1%63%294

What to Expect from Townhouse/Duplex Inventory

Below is a chart showing what your average Condominium and Fee Simple townhouse/duplex has offered buyers over the last five years of sales. While Fee Simple homes are roughly 43% larger, with an extra bedroom/bathroom, and about 25 years newer (likely to have a more open floor plan, larger bathrooms, and larger closets) the average Fee Simple home in 2020 was about $290,000 more expensive.

Ownership TypeAvg BedroomsAvg Full BathsAvg Half BathsAvg Total SqftAvg Year Built# Sold
Condominium2.21.90.51,41819591352
Fee Simple3.02.51.02,02519841222

Sales Since 2019, by Decade Built

I also thought it would be interesting to compare what inventory looks like based on the decade it was built. The following table details what you can expect to find in townhouse/duplex inventory by decade built, based on sales since 2019.

Below are a few highlights from the data:

  • There are three “generations” of townhouse/duplex inventory: 1930s-1950s, 1960s-1980s, and 1990s-current. In each “generation” the size of homes being built increased significantly.
  • The oldest, least expensive homes sell the fastest, with an incredible 71% of 1930s townhouses/duplexes selling within one week on market. On the flip side, the newest, most expensive inventory can take a little longer to sell, with less than 50% of these homes selling within one week. However, even at 40% and 47%, that is still a fast pace for any market.
  • Of the 1,012 townhouse/duplex homes sold since 2019, 279 (27.6%) had an attached garage. On average, a townhouse/duplex with a garage sold for just over $967,000 and 77% of these homes were built in the 1990s-2010s. 75% of homes with a garage had a two-car garage, representing only about 20% of total townhouse/duplex sales and requiring an average purchase price just over $1M.
Decade BuiltAvg Sold Price% Sold <7 daysAvg Total SqftAvg BRAvg Full BathAvg Half Bath# Sold
1930s$451,59371%1,0181.91.30.4129
1940s$535,77961%1,3612.21.90.1301
1950s$441,07154%1,1172.51.40.654
1960s$685,41760%1,8713.22.21.330
1970s$697,34163%1,9532.92.31.283
1980s$690,40867%1,6182.62.31.1198
1990s$966,94467%2,1283.12.61.399
2000s$1,057,05747%2,5603.22.61.260
2010s$979,36540%2,2183.53.21.188

For those of you exploring the purchase or sale of a townhouse/duplex in Arlington, I hope this information was helpful! If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

Condo Values Fall as Inventory Builds

Question: Have you seen a decrease in condo values with all of the inventory currently on the market?

Answer: Over the last few months, I’ve written about the shift in the condo market (links here and here and here), which began around July and can be attributed to a historical number of units listed for sale while demand simultaneously dropped due to COVID. Indicators such as Months of Supply, Absorption Rate, Days on Market, and Sold to Ask Price Ratios have shown a more favorable market for buyers for the last four months, but it takes longer to establish changes in pricing (need enough data).

It’s been my experience working in this market over the last few months that prices seem to be down about 2-5% in many sub-markets, compared to late 2019 and the first half of 2020 (after surging since 2018). However, I dug into the data a bit more to see how condos that went under contract after July 15 compare to the sales of condos that went under contract from Jan 1 – July 14 2020. I used July 15 because that is when I really start to see changes taking shape in the condo market.

One point I’d like to make prior to sharing the data findings is that the data is based on condos that have sold/closed and there are many condos still sitting on the market or under contract that won’t show up in this analysis. The market has also worsened (for sellers) each month since July, so properties that went under contract in July/August likely did better than those later on in the year. Therefore, it’s likely that as the units close that are currently struggling to sell, or just now coming to market, the data will get worse (larger decrease in values).

Data Summary

I chose to segment the market in a few different ways to get a sense of how different sub-markets are experiencing the condo shift. When comparing relatively small data sets (like we have here), the best conclusions can be drawn by analyzing market segments that have lot of similarities such as condos along the R-B Corridor built in the last 20 years or mid-1900s (older) buildings. Here are some highlights from the data sets I reviewed:

  • 1BR and 2BR condos along the R-B Corridor, built in the last 20 years, sold an average of 2.2% and 5.8% less, respectively, after mid-July. If you look at $/sqft, prices have dropped 1.1% and 3.6%, respectively. I believe this is the data set that most accurately reflects what’s happening in the condo market.
  • Older, less expensive condos across the County seem to have held onto their values better than newer, more expensive units. More expensive condos are closer in price to townhouses and I’ve seen more buyers favor lower-priced townhouses over higher-priced condos, as a result of COVID concerns. Buyers of less expensive condos don’t have many alternatives at that price point, other than renting.
  • The apparent appreciation of South Arlington since July 15 can be attributed to a different distribution of sales (higher volume of more expensive properties and lower follow of less expensive properties) than comparable units actually selling for more
  • The indicators (Sold to Ask, % Sold in <7 Days, and Days On) are what I find most interesting and a sign that the actual decrease in condo pricing isn’t fully reflected yet in the current data set:
    • Across every sub-market, including those where the average price didn’t drop, buyers negotiated significantly more off the original asking price. Earlier in the year, three sub-markets averaged buyers paying at least full price and since July 15 there were none.
    • The most interesting indicator is the huge drop in the percentage of units that go under contract within the first week.

Looking Forward

As I mentioned in the third paragraph, I expect future data sets for condos sold in the last quarter of 2020 and very early 2021 to show even larger decreases in values, relative to the first half of 2020. However, I think that with more positive news on COVID-19 vaccines, the start of the 2021 spring market, and more people returning to work (and realizing they value commuting convenience over extra space) I believe there’s a good chance the negative trends of the last 4-5 months will level off soon and begin to reverse by February/March.

I will continue to track trends in the Arlington condo market and provide transparency into what we’re experiencing. The townhouse and single-family home markets remain strong and I fully expect another appreciation cycle in 2021 for those sub-markets.

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

Visualizing Arlington’s Explosion in Homes Listed for Sale

Question: Did the volume of homes listed for sale recover after a slow spring/summer?

Answer: There has been a surge of new inventory coming to market since July. For condos, it has been historically high, by a wide margin, resulting in a 20% increase in 2020 over the 20-year average. While the single-family and townhouse listing volume has spiked since July too, overall, we’re just .5% above our 20-year average.

In July I wrote a column with charts showing how low Arlington’s listing volume was compared to the 20-year average and I made some predictions that the inventory we lost in the spring/early summer would return in the late summer/fall. This week we’ll take a look at how those predictions played out and dig further into listing volume over the last four months and overall in 2020.

Inventory Comes Back, And More

Historically, March-June bring about the highest listing volume, but this year, due to COVID-19, many homeowners held off on putting their home on the market. In July, I predicted that a lot of the “missing” inventory from March-June would be listed from July-October, which would result in a delayed spring market.

As it turned out, the number of condos listed from July-October FAR exceeded the amount of “missing” inventory from March-June, by nearly 3x! For single-family homes and townhouses, July-October listing volume also exceeded the amount of “missing” inventory from March-June, but by a much smaller margin.

In the chart below, missing and excess inventory is calculated off of the 20-year average for monthly listing volume.

Condo Volume at Historical Levels, By a LOT

Just how extreme have the last four months of listing volume been in the condo market? There were 801 condos listed for sale from July-October. Prior to that, the highest four-month listing volume was 650 units from April-July 2004.

Segmenting Listing Volume by Zip Code and Bedroom Count

Overall, the 2020 single-family home and townhouse listing volume is up just .5% over the 20-year average through October and the 2020 condo listing volume is up 20% over the 20-year average through October.

Below are charts breaking down how changes in listing volume have been distributed by zip code and bedroom count. My theory, prior to charting the data, was that there would be a bigger increase in listing volume for smaller properties (1BR over 2BR condos, 2-3BR over 4BR-6BR single-family/townhouses), but it turned out to be the opposite. Go figure!

Current Supply Levels

The market has been able to absorb the extra single-family and townhouse inventory, despite it coming during a time of year with historically lower demand. However, the market hasn’t come close to absorbing the condo inventory, which continues to build at a rapid rate.

See the below chart of changes to Months of Supply (measure of supply and demand, higher MoS favors buyers) over the last three years between single-family homes and condos.

The result is that the single-family and townhouse market remains competitive, with prices remaining stable through the fall and winter, while the condo market shifts to a more favorable market for buyers, creating substantial downward pressure on condo prices.

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

$2,000,000 Isn’t What It Used To Be

Question: Is it just me or have there been a lot more $2,000,000+ homes for sale this year than in the past?

Answer: The $2,000,000 mark used to represent a significant resistance point for homes in Arlington, reserved only for the best-of-the-best and difficult to sell, but we’ve seen a surge of $2,000,000+ homes for sale in Arlington this year and demand to absorb it.

One of the more interesting differences between Arlington’s real estate market and other expensive markets is that while a huge percentage of our homes sell for over $1M, we have very few homes that sell over $3M (link to previous article). For some context, there have been 82 single-family homes listed for sale for $2M-$3M in Arlington in 2020, but just 19 listed for sale/sold since 2010 for over $3M (four of them are currently for sale).

Below is a chart showing the number of single-family homes sold that were listed for $2M-$3M since 2010. 2020 also includes homes currently for sale or under contract that are listed for $2M-$3M (and we still have 5 weeks left in the year for more homes to be listed).

Here are some interesting details about the $2M-$3M single-family home price point:

  • The average sold price to original asking price from 2015-2019 was nearly identical, ranging from 94.1%-94.7%, but this year that average shot up to 96.5%. Also, from 2015-2019, the average days on market was 93 days, but in 2020 it dropped to 58 days. Both of these changes indicate a much stronger appetite from buyers for $2M+ homes.
  • Since 2010, 92.3% of homes were/are located in the 22201 (20.1%) and 22207 (70.2%) zip codes
  • I was surprised that only about half of the sales are new construction. I would have expected new construction to make up a much higher percentage of these high-price sales.
  • Prior to 2019, a $2M+ home usually meant at least 1/3 of an acre, but in 2020 it brings an average of just ¼ of an acre
  • Bedroom/Bathroom count has remained pretty consistent over the years, with an average of 5-6 bedrooms, five full bathrooms, and one half bathrooms
  • If you’d like to click through the $2M-$3M single-family homes since 2010, here’s a link!

If you’re as curious as I was about what the chart for $1M-$1.999M single-family homes looks like, it’s quite different. Enjoy!

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

What Joe Biden’s Tax Plan Means for Real Estate

Question: What are the key tax changes Joe Biden is proposing that will impact real estate?

Answer: Joe Biden’s proposed tax plan is full of interesting details and so I reached out to the tax experts at Bormel, Grice & Huyett, P.A. for their input on the details that would have the most direct impact on real estate. Below, Matt Bormel (301-953-3259), shares the two biggest changes that President-elect Joe Biden will likely champion as part of his overhaul of the current tax code. Take it away Matt!

President-elect Joe Biden has proposed a number of policies that would affect taxes on individuals with income above $400,000, including raising individual income, capital gains, and payroll taxes. Biden would enact tax changes on corporations by raising the corporate income tax rate and imposing a corporate minimum tax.

Biden’s plan includes all sorts of changes and updates to the payroll tax, individual income tax, estate and gift tax changes, but two particular changes stand out for the real estate industry.

Elimination of 1031 Exchanges

The President-elect has detailed many updates and additions, but one of the tax provisions he wants to eliminate would have a major impact on real estate.

Biden’s proposed tax plan would eliminate the ability to defer capital gains on the sale of real property in a like-kind exchange. A like-kind exchange – sometimes referred to as a “1031” exchange – allows real estate investors to swap one real estate investment property for another and reduce or eliminate the capital gains tax on the sold property. It’s very popular among investors and developers.

The IRS has recently issued new regulations that specifically outline what constitutes real estate property in order to determine eligibility for Section 1031 like-kind exchanges.  However, those provisions would be moot if your ability to make a Section 1031 exchange is eliminated or you’re unable to get your exchange done before that elimination takes place.

With that being said, it would be prudent to consider taking advantage of Section 1031 exchange breaks before a Biden tax plan could potentially eliminate it.

First-Time Home Buyer Assistance

According to Joe Biden’s campaign website, Biden has also pledged to “provide financial assistance to help hard-working Americans buy or rent quality housing.”

Part of a Joe Biden tax change would re-establish the First-Time Homebuyers’ Tax Credit, which was originally created during the Great Recession to help the housing market. Biden’s updated homebuyers’ credit, referred to as “First Down Payment Tax Credit” would provide up to $15,000 for first-time homebuyers.

Building off of a temporary tax credit expanded as part of the Recovery Act, this tax credit will be permanent and advanceable, meaning that homebuyers receive the tax credit when they make the purchase instead of waiting to receive the assistance when they file taxes the following year.

Proposed, but Not Guaranteed

A new Administration often comes with a major overhaul to tax regulations, but it is worth noting that the President can’t raise or lower taxes on his own.  Congress has to pass legislation to adjust taxes and then send the Bill to the President for signature.  If the Senate remains in Republican control, getting new tax legislation passed without many compromises may be difficult to achieve.

As more updates become available, you can count on the experienced tax professionals at Bormel, Grice & Huyett, P.A. to provide thorough updates and guidance on how to proceed.

Five Years of Ask Eli, Thank You!

My first Ask Eli column was published on November 10 2015 (I introduced myself and explained the Escalation Addendum), exactly five years ago! Since then I’ve accumulated 416 pages in Microsoft Word, nearly 170,000 words, and over 840,000 characters typed!

I want to take a moment to express my appreciation for Scott (Founder), Jordan, Lene, Turquiose and everybody else on the ALRnow/Local New Now team for creating and maintaining such an incredible platform for local news and community discussion. Thank you!

I also want to thank all of the amazing readers and commenters who have made the last five years of writing about Arlington/DMV real estate so rewarding for me. Your feedback, comments, critiques, and questions let me know that I’m not talking into an online abyss  Please continue sending me topics or ideas that you’d like me to cover!

For those of you who may have missed my post last week because it was Election Day, I shared a cool interactive chart showing how Arlington real estate has appreciated in value since 2010. You can check out that chart here.

Thank you everybody for following along. Hopefully I’ll get to write a similar ten-year post in November 2025!

10-Year Real Estate Appreciation in Arlington (Interactive Chart)

Question: Do you have any data available on how Arlington real estate has performed over the last ten years?

Answer: A lot has changed in Arlington since 2010. We’re less reliant on the Federal Government for jobs, you can find something to do after 6PM outside of Clarendon, and $1,000,000 definitely doesn’t go as far as it used to. BUT we still don’t have a Rosslyn-Georgetown Gondola or a boathouse; maybe in 2030…

I thought it would be cool to create an interactive chart for everybody to play around with to show how real estate values in Arlington and different Arlington sub-markets have changed from 2010 to 2020. Click on the image below to get to a page on my website that will allow you to see 2010 vs 2020 price changes based on things like zip code, bedroom count, new builds/resale, and more.

Now stop reading and go vote if you haven’t already!

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.