Best and Worst Months to List a Rental

Question: What time of the year is most and least favorable for putting a property on the market for rent?

Answer: The rental market follows similar seasonal trends as the resale market in that spring tends to be the best time to list a property and the market is slowest during the winter months. For this market analysis, I looked at all rentals in Arlington from 2015-2019 (I kept 2020 out because it’s an anomaly) to determine how the month a property is listed for rent impacts a landlord’s negotiation leverage and the days on market. I split the data into apartment-style properties and detached/townhouse properties to see if there was much variability, but the trends are similar for all property types.

Best Months to List: March – July

Worst Months to List: September – December

The data I looked at to determine the best and worse months are the percentage of the final rental price to the original asking price (indication of how much leverage landlords have), the average days on market, and the percentage of properties rented within two weeks of being listed for rent. These data points provide some of the best indications of how successful you will be renting a property at different times of the year.

While there are clearly certain months of the year that are better/worse to rent, I think it’s also important to note that the gap between the best and worst month(s) is not massive, but it’s enough that landlords should work to put themselves on a spring/early summer leasing cycle and avoid signing leases that expire in the late fall/winter.

If you are a tenant, you can expect the most properties coming to market from May – July and a dramatic reduction in options from October – December.

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

Proof of Competing/Multiple Offers

Question: Can I get proof that there are multiple/competing offers on a property?

Answer: The short answer is no. There’s no way to get absolute proof of another offer, except when an Escalation Addendum is used (which I’ll address later), but there are strategies to help determine how legitimate a listing agent’s claim of multiple offers is.

Ask Questions

There’s a myth that agents aren’t allowed to disclose the details of an offer to another agent when, in fact, it’s perfectly legal unless the seller declines it in the listing agreement (rare). When I’m told about another offer, I usually ask questions about the competing offer’s terms, how/when the seller will make a decision, and anything else that’s relevant to the offer. In most cases, I’m able to judge with a high level of confidence whether or not the other offer is legitimate and the strength of that offer(s).

Situational Awareness

Here are a few factors to help determine the likelihood of multiple offers:

  • Days on Market: The highest chance for multiple offers is within the first week a property is listed, with the likelihood decreasing with each week that passes.
  • Price: If you think the list price seems below market value, you’re probably not the only one. In some cases, homes are priced slightly below market value to encourage multiple offers. It’s also important to understand buyer volume/demand at different price points. There are a lot more buyers searching Arlington for a $900,000 three-bedroom detached home than there are buyers searching for a $3,000,000 eight-bedroom home, thus a much higher probability of multiple offers on the $900,000 home.
  • Market Conditions: In the current market, nearly every detached home or townhouse that is priced at, below, or just above market value is getting multiple offers. Pay attention to data points like Months of Supply in the area/sub-market you’re searching to gauge supply and demand, for a good indication of how likely multiple offers are.
  • Uniqueness: A unique home, with uniqueness coming from positive features like lot size/quality, has a much better chance of getting a lot of offers than a property that’s easier to find, like a 700 SqFt one-bedroom condo in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor.

Of course, multiple offers can come at any time. I once had a listing that had one offer in over a year and then ended up with two offers on a random Monday. I couldn’t explain it and it was certainly an interesting conversation with the two agents who submitted offers.

Risky Business

Made up offers are a lot less common than you’d imagine because most agents understand how much riskier it is to negotiate using a fabricated offer instead of negotiating through strong counter offers and honest negotiations. In the hundreds of multiple/competing offer situations I’ve been involved in, I’ve never once walked away knowing for certain an agent fabricated an offer and only had reason to think it might have happened a few times.

Proof via Escalation Addendum

If the seller chooses to accept your offer using an escalated price through the Escalation Addendum (allows you to automatically beat another offer, up to a maximum price), they must provide “a complete copy of [the] other offer used to justify the escalated sales price.” This is the only contractual obligation a seller/seller’s agent would have to provide proof of a competing offer and the requirement is only to provide proof of the offer used to justify the price escalation, not all offers.

Like most real estate decisions, deciding whether to believe information about a competing offer comes down to a risk-benefit assessment based on the information available to you. The risk of not trusting it could mean losing out to a better offer that proves to be legitimate. The benefit is potentially securing the home at better terms by ignoring the information about a competing offer. I think that helping you (the buyer) understand these risk-benefit scenarios and make decisions about them is one of the most important roles an agent plays in the transaction.

Cost of an Arlington Bedroom

Question: How much more can I expect to pay for a 5BR house compared to a 4BR house?

Answer: The primary criteria for most buyers is the number of bedrooms, so this week we will break down the cost of detached and condo housing in Arlington by bedroom count. The dataset includes all closed sales since Jan 1 2020 except a $45M sale, River Place Coop, and age-restricted housing. Below are some highlights from the data:

  • For detached homes, the biggest price jump is from four bedrooms to five, with an average price increase of 33.1%
  • The best value for a detached home, with the lowest cost per bedroom, is a four-bedroom house
  • Larger homes are much harder to find in South Arlington, with just 58 homes with five or six bedrooms sold since 2020 compared to 353 sold in North Arlington
  • Nobody builds smaller homes anymore. Of the sold homes built within the last 20 years, zero had two bedrooms, three had three bedrooms, and 33 had four bedrooms compared to 141 and 64 with five and six bedrooms, respectively.
  • Smaller, more affordable homes sell faster with ~70% of two-and-three-bedroom detached homes selling after just 1-10 days on market compared to ~40-45% of five-and-six-bedroom detached homes
  • For condos, going from a two-bedroom to a three-bedroom adds 78.1% and is even more expensive in North Arlington, nearly doubling the cost
  • The number of three-bedroom condos sold is <10% of the number of one-bedroom and two-bedroom units sold
  • If you are looking for a three-bedroom condo on a budget, focus on South Arlington, where the average comes in under $550,000 compared to over $1.7M in North Arlington
  • Expect to pay about 20% more for a property (detached or condo) built in the last 20 years

Hopefully this helps those of you currently searching for a home in Arlington or planning a housing search soon!

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

Quarterly Review of Arlington/DC Area Real Estate

Question: How did Q1 compare to other quarters and what does that mean for Q2?

Answer: The housing boom has been front-and-center in the national news cycle for about six months now and Q1 blessed many homeowners and builders with amazing results, while inflicting similar levels of frustration on buyers.

Despite the national, regional, and local craziness the Arlington single-family home (SFH) and townhouse (TH) markets actually didn’t look that different in Q1 2021 compared to the last couple of (post-Amazon HQ2) years so the pandemic-related housing boom hasn’t created nearly the systemic shock here as it has in other local markets like Fairfax County and Loudoun County. Months of Supply (measure of supply and demand) for SFH is down 36% YoY for Q1 in Arlington, but over 50% in Washington DC, Fairfax County, and Loudoun County with Loudoun County SFHs down an incredible 73.9% YoY in Q1.

Arlington Quarterly Market Performance

First, let’s take a look at a breakdown of the Arlington SFH/TH quarterly market performance, with some highlights bulleted below:

  • If you’re buying a SFH/TH that has been on the market for 10 days or less, prepare to pay an average of 2-3% over the asking price. 12% of buyers since 2020 have paid 5% or more over the asking price.
  • Since 2020, about two-thirds of SFH/TH properties go under contract in 1-10 days and only 21% have stayed on market for more than 30 days
  • You can expect price escalations on hot properties to be even further above the asking price in Q2 compared to Q1, based on historical data. The only exception to this was in 2020 because Q3 functioned like Q2 due to a delayed spring market caused by the pandemic.
  • Expect about one-third of 2021’s SFH/TH properties to be listed for sale in Q2, the most of any quarter by a significant margin
  • Among SFH/TH properties that went under contract in 1-10 days in Q1, the average sold price of those homes increased 11.8% over Q1 2020. Last year there was a 5.7% increase in average sold price of hot properties compared to Q1 2019.
Contract Year/QuarterAvg Sold to Org Ask (Properties 1-10 Days On)% 1-10 Days on MarketListing VolumeListing % of Annual Total
2016100.7%38.8%1640100%
Q1100.7%38.9%40525%
Q2101.0%46.6%55534%
Q3100.4%34.0%40224%
Q4100.2%31.3%27817%
2017100.9%41.0%1744100%
Q1101.0%47.1%48728%
Q2101.3%46.1%58733%
Q3100.7%36.5%41524%
Q4100.1%28.4%25515%
2018101.1%43.0%1614100%
Q1101.2%50.4%40025%
Q2101.5%48.1%54934%
Q3100.9%39.4%39024%
Q4100.5%31.3%27517%
2019101.9%56.9%1451100%
Q1101.8%63.4%38927%
Q2102.2%61.0%47833%
Q3101.9%54.6%34624%
Q4101.1%43.8%23816%
2020102.2%59.5%1600100%
Q1102.4%65.4%35622%
Q2101.8%58.1%39925%
Q3102.7%63.9%49331%
Q4101.9%50.0%35222%
2021102.7%60.3% 
Q1102.7%60.3% 

Northern VA and Washington DC Market Performance Comparison

As noted earlier, the pandemic created a much sharper change in the real estate markets outside of Arlington because Arlington had already experienced similar changes due to Amazon’s HQ2 announcement in November 2018. Below are some charts comparing the SFH markets (and one comparing the condo markets) in Washington DC, Arlington, Fairfax County, and Loudoun County, with some highlights bulleted below:

  • In 2018 and most of 2019, Months of Supply for SFH in Washington DC, Fairfax County, and Loudoun County was 2-3x higher than Arlington (indicating a more favorable market for buyers). In Q1 2021, Fairfax County and Loudoun County had about half the Months of Supply as Arlington and Washington DC, clearly a sign of buyer preferences for more space, lower $/SqFt, and de-prioritization of commute time and walkability.
  • The most dramatic pandemic-related market shift for Arlington has been the condo market going from the most favorable market for sellers pre-pandemic to a near tie with Washington DC for least favorable, by a significant margin
  • Fairfax County stands out for the huge drop in active SFH home listings, dropping from an average of nearly 2,000 listings/quarter in 2018 to less than 500 in Q1 2021
  • The data suggests relatively little change in average prices in Q1 2021 in Arlington and Washington DC, but I think this is more about the data composition than a reflection of actual pricing because everything I’ve experienced in the market suggests strong price growth in Q1 2021
  • Median days on market for SFH has been below 10 days in all four markets since the pandemic began

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

Demand For Home Pools Increasing

Question: Have you seen a change in demand for home pools since COVID began?

Answer: In 2017 I wrote that for most homes in Northern VA (and the DC Metro), having a pool had a negative impact on resale because most buyers see them as a hazard, unnecessary expense, and/or inefficient use of yard. However, COVID has changed the minds of many buyers and caused demand for homes with pools to increase significantly.

Demand For Pools Much Higher in 2020+

Below is a look at the data (as of April 4 2021) behind homes sold with a pool in Arlington County, Falls Church City, Alexandria City, Fairfax County, and Loudoun County since 2015. The numbers were pretty consistent prior to 2020, then demand clearly shifted in favor of pools due to COVID. All indicators improved significantly for people selling a home with a pool.

Year ListedAvg Sold to Original AskAvg Days on Market% Sold Within 10 Days# Sold
201695.4%6325%646
201796.1%5729%674
201896.2%5433%680
201996.3%5834%661
2020-2198.9%3653%772

Demand Similar Across Northern VA

I broke down the sales data since 2015 between each Northern VA jurisdiction to see if certain markets perform better or worse on sales of homes with pools. It turns out that there’s not much of a difference on where you’re buying in Northern VA, the interest in pools seems to be relatively similar across each market. Note how few homes in Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church have pools.

County/CityAvg Sold to OriginalAvg Days on Market% Sold Within 10 DaysAvy Lot Size# Sold
Alexandria City95.0%4138%0.4464
Arlington96.7%6232%0.3477
Fairfax96.3%5434%1.392445
Falls Church City97.7%5744%0.3516
Loudoun96.5%7134%5.56974
Average96.3%5934%2.483576

Looking For A Pool?

If you’re looking for a house with a pool in Northern VA, I wrote an article last year breaking down what sub-markets you’re most likely to find homes with a pool for sale and the sales data for those homes.

Unfortunately, it’s incredibly expensive to build your own pool here. Most people are shocked when they find out what it costs to build a gunite (concrete) in-ground pool around here, which usually runs $150k-$200k+ before additional patio and landscaping work.

I linked up with local Arlington landscape designer/expert Rob Groff, of Groff Landscape Design, to find out why it’s so much more expensive to build a pool here than elsewhere in the region/country and ask about a common strategy I’ve heard from homeowners to hire an out-of-town company to build a pool for less and pay for their travel/lodging during the project to save some money.

Q: Why is it so expensive to build a pool here?

A: It’s so much more expensive to build a pool here because permitting is more time consuming and expensive, materials and labor are more expensive, average lot size is smaller which oftentimes causes for problems, engineering, municipal related site preparation such as construction entrances, super silt fence, site restoration, drainage, etc are all a factor.

Q: Is it more cost effective for homeowners to hire an out-of-town pool company who builds pools for less money and pay for their travel/lodging?

A: A lot of pool companies don’t include all expenses up front and therefore there are a ton of surprise costs on the back-end of the pool project.  I’ve seen this a lot especially from out of area pool companies.  We actually setup a spreadsheet and accompany some of our clients in the vetting process.  We had a local company at 205k for a pool that a Fredericksburg based company had at 145k.  By the time the meeting was over and we corrected the Fredericksburg company to make sure they didn’t leave anything off, they were up at 215k.

Q: Are there more affordable options for in-ground pools that you recommend?

A: In Northern Virginia, a gunite (concrete) pool has been the standard for a long time.  On average, we see these coming in at $150k-$200k in Northern Virginia (not including the pool patio and other surrounding elements like landscaping, lighting, etc).  Fiberglass pools are growing in popularity and their base price is closer to $55k-$65k (River Pools and Spa). These fiberglass pools don’t feel the same to many homeowners as a true gunite pool, but they save enough money to make people consider them. There are a ton of good videos on their website that explains the differences between gunite and fiberglass, etc.

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

The Cost of Land in Arlington

Question: Can you do an update of your 2017 article on the cost of land in Arlington?

Answer: In 2017 I took a look at a dataset focused on the cost of land in Arlington and lot sizes, so let’s take a look at these numbers a few years later and see just how much more expensive it is to snag a square of grass here.

Since 2017, the average lot size on all single-family homes (SFH) sold is 8,515 SqFt or about .2 acres and only five of the 4,428 SFH sold had 1+ acres, with none over 1.15 acres. Just 1.6% of sales were homes with ½ acre or more. 82.4% of SFH sold since 2017 sat on 1/10th – 1/4th acre (1/4 acre is about 11,000SqFt).

The chart below breaks down the average lot size and standard deviation of lot sizes by Arlington zip code based on sales of SFH since 2017. I also added two columns looking at the average cost of a new SFH in each zip code based on 2020-2021 sales. 22206 and 22209 didn’t have enough SFH sales to provide good data.

It’s not easy to determine the average cost of homes that get torn down or have a major remodel, so I used the same methodology as I did in 2017 and looked at the cheapest 15% of sales in each zip, by year, and assumed that these represent sales that were completely or mostly valued for the land. The chart below shows the average cost of the cheapest 15% of SFH sold in each zip, by year. The second chart is the same dataset but looks at the cost per SqFt of the lot.

The biggest downside of this methodology is that it’s not capturing sales of the best lots in certain zip codes, but I think this approach does a pretty good job of capturing average values for most sales where the lot was the entire or majority of the value.

Lots in 22201 are by far the most expensive per SqFt because they’re both expensive (highest average price for cheapest 15%) and small (third smallest average lot size by zip code, the two with smaller lots barely have any SFH lots).

While you’ll pay about $100k more for the average lot in 22207 compared to 22205, you’re most likely getting a larger lot so the cost per SqFt of those lots ends up being similar. The cheapest lots are in 22204 (by nearly $150,000), but the best value, by far, is 22213 with the average lot just $67/SqFt.

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

Condo Market Update & Breakdown

Question: How has the market for high-rise condo buildings compared to low-rise/smaller condo communities through the pandemic?

Answer: The condo market began to turn last summer and got progressively worse through November/December, but has improved slightly and stabilized a bit since December. The next few months will give us a lot of good information on whether the condo market will improve or if we can expect a rebalancing as buyer priorities shift more permanently due to their COVID experiences and new telework policies.

This week I took a look at some of the underlying condo market data to see if there has been a noticeable difference in how garden/townhouse-style (garden-style = low-rises of 1-4 stories) condo communities have performed compared to mid/high-rise buildings. I also broke down the condo market by bedroom to see if one-bedrooms have been impacted more than larger two and three bedrooms units.

Arlington/DC Metro Condo Market Overview

First, let’s take a zoomed-out look at the Arlington and DC Metro markets. We are still experiencing a rush out of condos (see first chart, New Listings), with the DC Metro and Arlington both recording record-highs in total condos listed for sale in January and February. The reasons for this range from people seeking more space/yard to investors unable to find tenants.

Months of Supply (measure of supply and demand) shown in the second chart shows us that Arlington experiences a slightly worse (for sellers) condo market than the DC Metro overall after experiencing a much stronger market from late 2018-early 2020 in the wake of Amazon’s HQ2 announcement. Both markets have shown signs of stabilizing over the last few months, after getting progressively worse each month in the 2nd half of 2020.

Garden/Townhouse-Style vs Mid/High-Rise

The overall Arlington condo market is sitting at about 2.25 Months of Supply, still well below the 6 Months of Supply deemed by economists to be a balanced market for buyers and sellers. As of this writing, the mid/high-rise market has about 2.6 Months of Supply and the garden/townhouse-style condo market is sitting at 1.3 Months of Supply, making it a pretty good market to sell into.

Historically, the garden/townhouse-style market has performed better (faster sales, more competition/seller leverage) than the mid/high-rise market so the difference in Months of Supply doesn’t indicate a COVID-related shift. As you’ll see in the table below, the differences between the garden/townhouse-style condo market and the mid/high-rise market have remained relatively similar each year from pre-Amazon (2018) through the Amazon surge (2019) and now into the COVID-related pullback (2020).

Contract Year/ TypeAvg Sold to Original AskAvg Days on Market% Sold in 1-10 Days
2018
Garden/Townhouse-Style98.4%2746%
Mid/High Rise97.5%4534%
2019
Garden/Townhouse-Style100.8%1373%
Mid/High Rise99.3%2359%
2020
Garden/Townhouse-Style99.7%1465%
Mid/High Rise98.4%2947%
2021
Garden/Townhouse-Style98.7%3648%
Mid/High Rise97.7%4336%

Condo Market Performance by Bedroom Count

I also took a similar look at the Arlington condo market by bedroom count. Months of Supply for one-bedrooms is highest at 2.5, followed by two-bedrooms at 1.8, and then three-bedrooms at 1.7. The early data for 2021 suggests that one-bedroom condos will suffer more in the market than larger two and three bedroom units, which makes sense from a COVID standpoint because most one-bedroom units don’t have a good dedicated office space.

Contract Year/ Bedroom CountAvg Sold to Original AskAvg Days on Market% Sold in 1-10 Days
2018
197.7%3637%
298.4%3641%
397.5%3247%
2019
1100.2%1765%
2100.3%1767%
398.1%3555%
2020
199.0%2157%
299.2%2256%
398.8%2459%
2021
197.5%4832%
298.4%3547%
399.9%3256%

I do expect the condo market to improve over the next few months as more people are vaccinated and warmer weather allows people to return to some semblance of a normal life, and thus buying behavior that is more reflective of pre-COVID times. However, I think that how employers choose to handle telework long-term will ultimately determine whether we will experience a full return to the pre-COVID market or if we are going to see a more permanent rebalancing of condo values as commutes/convenience become less of a priority for buyers if they are no longer coming into an office every week.

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

How Many Agents Worked in Arlington Last Year?

Question: How many different real estate agents do business in Arlington in a typical year?

Answer: There were 2,770 real estate transactions in Arlington in 2020 (incredibly close to the 2,782 transactions in 2019!), totaling over $2.16B in total sales volume (up from $1.96B in 2019).

I think most people would assume a few hundred different real estate agents worked on those 2,770 transactions, but in fact there were 2,223 different agents part of those sales (remember, most transactions have two agents involved). In 2019, 2,017 different agents transacted in Arlington so the numbers are very consistent.

I looked over the 2020 Arlington transaction data and pulled out some interesting highlights:

  • 61.4% of the agents who handled an Arlington real estate transaction in 2020 work on just one sale in Arlington (they may have done more business outside of Arlington)
  • Just 3% of agents handled 10 or more transactions in Arlington and .8% handled 20 or more transactions
  •  1,452 different agents represented buyers in Arlington and 19 of them (1.3%) worked with 10 or more buyers in Arlington
  • 1,316 different agents represented sellers in Arlington and 29 of them (2.2%) worked with 10 or more sellers in Arlington
  • Of the 858 agents who handled 2 or more transactions in Arlington, they averaged 4.7 transactions each
  • Only two agents with 5+ transactions averaged $2M+ per transaction, Mark McFadden and Jennifer Thornett
  • Keri Shull and her team once again led Arlington in transactions and sales volume, by a wide margin, participating in roughly 8.4% of the transactions in Arlington and handling about 4% of the total sales volume in Arlington. Keri of course has a great team of agents and staff supporting this activity. Here’s a link to an article I wrote in 2019 explaining how different agents/teams are structured.

Most studies suggest that consumers are less concerned with measures like sales volume and more focused on the strength of communication and trustworthiness of the agent they’re working with, but market expertise and experience are still important factors for most people.

While some may see the low barrier to entry to real estate licensing and high volume of agents as a negative, it also means that you have a lot of choices as a consumer and, with some effort, can make sure that you’re working with somebody who provides the type service you’re looking for.

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

Housing Market Performance by Price Point

Question: Are you able to tell how much of the appreciation in the overall Arlington housing market is from homes in the upper or lower price ranges?

Answer: I’ve often wondered if the appreciation in Arlington’s housing market is driven more by the lower, middle, or upper end of the market. My theory, prior to doing an analysis, was that homes in the lower price ranges were appreciating faster than those in the upper ranges, thus affordability was suffering more than any other category of housing.

To test this theory, I split each year into a lower, middle, and upper third and found the median price within each price range (note: the numbers for average prices looked very similar). I split the market into single-family/townhouses and condos for a more accurate picture of actual market behavior.

As it turns out, for the single-family/townhouse and condo markets, the upper third of the market has appreciated more over the last ten years than the lower and middle thirds. As is usually the case, single-family homes and townhouses appreciated much faster than condos during the same period, with single-family/townhouses practically doubling the rate of condo appreciation over the last ten years.

Explanation of Charts: Appreciation and Market Speed

Below you will see charts showing the median price of the lower, middle, and upper price tiers for single-family/townhouses and condos in Arlington over the last ten years. I also included a chart showing the cumulative appreciation for each price tier to highlight when each market experienced the greatest price jumps or most price stability.

The last two charts show the same concept but applied to Days on Market. Specifically, looking at what percentage of homes went under contract within the first 1-7 days on market. I’ve always felt like this metric is one of the best ways to understand how fast the market is moving and the intensity of demand.

All three price tiers show similar speed/intensity of demand over the years, with the only noticeable different being the upper third of single-family/townhouses, which is likely skewed by new construction, which often has a much higher days on market because of how often homes are listed before they’re finished.

I hope you find these charts as interesting as I do! If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

Condo Smoking Bill Passes in Virginia

Thank you to the ARLnow reader who brought Virginia House Bill 1842 to my attention because it is likely to be a game-changing law that will allow condo Boards to more easily ban smoking inside units and on balconies, not just in common areas. As of February 17 2021 the bill passed the Virginia House and Senate and, per my conversation with staff of the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Mark Keam, it is now on its way to the Governor’s desk to become Virginia law as of July 1 2021!

This is incredible news for many condo owners/residents who have suffered from the health and environmental hazards of a neighbor who smokes inside their unit or on their balcony. Over the years, I’ve written more about condo smoking bans than any other non-market related topic because of how much interest and positive feedback I received on the topic. So much so that in 2019 I hosted a panel discussion about it.

A full summary of the bill is pasted later, but the key text from the bill includes “…the executive board of a condominium unit owners’ association to establish reasonable rules that restrict smoking in the condominium, including rules that prohibit smoking in the common elements and within units…”

Under current laws, a smoking ban within units can only be done by way of a formal by-law amendment, which can be overly burdensome for most communities and take years to see through. The only “easy” smoking ban allowed by law was a ban in general common areas. Even limited common areas (e.g. balconies) require a by-law change under the current laws.

I am no legal expert and I’m sure the language in the bill can be interpreted a number of different ways, but this bills seems to give condo Boards/owners a very good chance of banning smoking within units. I’d love to hear from any readers who have the legal background to interpret just how likely or unlikely the language in this bill is to allow complete smoking bans.

Here is a link to details about the bill and the full summary below:

Property Owners’ Association Act; Condominium Act; rulemaking authority of property owners’ associations and unit owners’ associations; smoking. Permits (i) except to the extent that the declaration provides otherwise, the board of directors of a property owners’ association to establish reasonable rules that restrict smoking in the development, including (a) rules that prohibit smoking in the common areas and, (b) for developments that include attached private dwelling units, rules that prohibit smoking within such dwelling units, and (ii) except to the extent that the condominium instruments provide otherwise, the executive board of a condominium unit owners’ association to establish reasonable rules that restrict smoking in the condominium, including rules that prohibit smoking in the common elements and within units. The bill clarifies the authority of executive boards of condominium unit owners’ associations to establish, adopt, and enforce rules and regulations with respect to the use of the common elements of the condominium and with respect to such other areas of responsibility assigned to the unit owners’ association by the condominium instruments, except where expressly reserved by the condominium instruments to the unit owners. The bill also permits unit owners, by a majority of votes cast at a meeting of the unit owners’ association, to repeal or amend any rule or regulation adopted by the executive board. This bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Housing Commission. Property Owners’ Association Act; Condominium Act; rulemaking authority of property owners’ associations and unit owners’ associations; smoking. Permits (i) except to the extent that the declaration provides otherwise, the board of directors of a property owners’ association to establish reasonable rules that restrict smoking in the development, including (a) rules that prohibit smoking in the common areas and, (b) for developments that include attached private dwelling units, rules that prohibit smoking within such dwelling units, and (ii) except to the extent that the condominium instruments provide otherwise, the executive board of a condominium unit owners’ association to establish reasonable rules that restrict smoking in the condominium, including rules that prohibit smoking in the common elements and within units. The bill clarifies the authority of executive boards of condominium unit owners’ associations to establish, adopt, and enforce rules and regulations with respect to the use of the common elements of the condominium and with respect to such other areas of responsibility assigned to the unit owners’ association by the condominium instruments, except where expressly reserved by the condominium instruments to the unit owners. The bill also permits unit owners, by a majority of votes cast at a meeting of the unit owners’ association, to repeal or amend any rule or regulation adopted by the executive board. This bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Housing Commission.