Most Expensive Homes Sold in the DMV in 2022

Question: What were some of the most expensive homes sold this year in the DMV?

Answer: Happy holidays and new year everybody!

It’s always fun to look back at the most expensive homes sold in our nook of the world, so without further ado, let’s take a look at the most expensive homes sold this year in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Note: this includes what is entered into the MLS, it’s certainly possible (likely) that expensive homes have traded hands privately outside of the MLS.

The most expensive home sold this year in all three DMV states is a beautiful 550-acre estate, with a private 18-hole golf course, in Upperville VA that sold for $23.5M! Despite the hefty price tag, it falls well short of the record sales from 2018, 2020, and 2021 that all cleared $40M.

Listing by John Coles, Thomas and Talbot Estate Properties, Inc (1584 Rokeby Rd, Upperville, VA)

Top 5 Most Expensive Sales in Arlington

Listing by Robert Hryniewicki, Washington Fine Properties (3433 N Albemarle St, Arlington, VA)

Arlington’s average and median prices are sky-high, but the area generally likes ultra high-end properties we see elsewhere in the region. Arlington’s most expensive sale this year is a new build in Country Club Hills clocking in at 7,450 SqFt, seven bedrooms, seven full bathrooms, and two half baths. The property sits on an unusually large (for Arlington) .39-acre lot.

Top 5 Most Expensive Sales in Alexandria

Listing by Preston Innerst, EYA Marketing (5 Pioneer Mill #502, Alexandria, VA)

The most expensive sale in Alexandria is a townhouse built in 1800 in Old Town that sits on nearly ¼ acre with over 6,000 SqFt and seven bedrooms. Pictured above is the second priciest sale in Alexandria, a waterfront penthouse condo in Robinson Landing with nearly 2,800 SqFt for $4,509,000.

Top 5 Most Expensive Sales in Fairfax County

Sold by Daniel Heider, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty (576 Innsbruck Ave, Great Falls, VA)

The most expensive sale in Fairfax County comes in at $11M for a 20,000 SqFt home recently built one block from Langley High School. Pictured above is the second most expensive sale in Fairfax County of a sprawling Great Falls residence on five acres, built in 2007, sold for $10.5M.

Top 5 Most Expensive Sales in Loudoun County

Listing by Cricket Bedford, Thomas and Talbot Estate Properties (21827 Quaker Ln, Middleburg, VA)

The most expensive sale in Loudoun County for $4,950,000 of nearly 190 acres with an active Angus cattle operation.

Top 5 Most Expensive Sales in Washington DC

Listing by Michael Rankin, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty (3017 O St NW, Washington, DC)

3017 O St NW in Georgetown is Washington DC’s most expensive sale, at $11.5M, for nearly 8,000 SqFt on over ¼ acre.

Top 5 Most Expensive Sales in Maryland

Listing by Brad Kappel, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty (3235 Harness Creek Rd, Annapolis, MD)

The most expensive sale in Maryland is a beautiful waterfront home in Annapolis with over 3.5 acres and nearly 12,000 SqFt, built in 2014 for $12,000,000.

I hope this makes for some fun conversation during the holidays about what type of ultra high-end home you would buy if you win the lottery! But I’ll be honest, the most expensive homes this year aren’t nearly as impressive as last year’s (link if you want it).

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, 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 discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.

Arlington Condo Market Performance Metrics

Question: How has Arlington’s condo market reacted to higher interest rates?

Answer: In last week’s column, I looked at performance metrics for detached homes in Arlington, shared my thoughts on local pricing behavior, and discussed news about the national vs local real estate market. This week we will look at the underlying performance metrics in Arlington’s robust condo market.

Underlying Arlington Market Performance Data for Condos

Here’s how I approached the data used in this week’s analysis:

  • Low-, mid-, and high-rise condos only
  • Resale data only, no new construction
  • All data is presented by the month a home was listed in so we can measure how home sales performed based on the month they came to market
  • Net Sold = Sold Price less Seller Credits
  • I used data from 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2022 because I think it offers a helpful snapshot of recent Arlington markets to compare 2022 to. 2017 was our last “normal” market because Amazon HQ2 was announced Nov 2018 and that kicked off a condo craze. 2019 was the first full year with the Amazon bump, but pre-COVID market, and 2021 was a full year of the COVID-driven shift in condo demand.

I either did not use or must caution your interpretation of this year’s August-November data because it is incomplete for purposes of this analysis. There are 13, 26, 39, and 42 condos actively for sale that were listed in August, September, October, and November, respectively, which will influence the performance metrics for those months when they do contract/close and most likely will result in worse performance metrics than those months currently show.

There are only 10 condos still for sale listed January-July that will likely pull down the performance metrics for those months once they contract/close, but not enough for me to be concerned about the resulting data being presented in this analysis.

Business as Usual for Condos

While the detached market was on fire in 2021 and early 2022, the condo market performed mostly along the lines of historical metrics, except for one month, February 2022, when average sold prices climbed slightly above the original asking price. As a result, high interest rates have led to a more modest reversal in pricing behavior over the last six months, compared to the detached market.

The only time in the last 15 years that we’ve seen a real acceleration in condo prices was during 2019 (and pre-COVID 2020) as a result of Amazon’s HQ2 announcement.

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Pace of the Condo Market Slightly Below Normal

We had a few months during the peak of the 2022 market where the pace of sales came close to the craziness we experienced in 2019, after Amazon announced HQ2, but average days on market has returned to its normal seasonal trends. As more data rolls in for closings in August-December, I expect the average days on market for the last 3-4 months of 2022 to exceed historical averages, but not by much.

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One of my favorite performance metrics is the percentage of homes that sell within 10/30 days. I think it beats average and median days on market for a true understanding of the pace of a market.

As opposed to average days on market, these charts indicate that high interest rates have slowed the pace of the condo market beyond the usual seasonal slowdown, with a notably slow October where just 38% of condos listed sold within 30 days. Expect to see these metrics fall even further as more condos listed after July contract and close.

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Looking Forward

Condo pricing tends to be pretty stable and movements up or down are relatively small, with the exception of major events like Amazon HQ2 (rapid appreciation) and COVID (rapid, temporary depreciation), so expect a return to stable and predictable pricing in our condo market where we’re used to seeing 0-2% appreciation year-over-year.

The effect of high interest rates will likely be felt most in the slow pace of the market. The pace will almost certainly increase in Q1 2023, which means we can expect about 1/3 of condos to sell within the first 10 days and about 2/3 to sell within the first 30 days during the spring selling season. 

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, 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 discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH @properties, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.

Arlington Housing Market Performance Metrics

Question: How have you seen the Arlington housing market react to higher interest rates?

Answer: I hope everybody had a fantastic Thanksgiving. The results of last week’s Dark Meat vs White Meat poll were impressive. With 559 votes in as of this morning, only three votes separated white meat as the preferred part of the turkey over dark meat! We may have found the only vote closer than a Georgia Senate Race!

National vs Local Market Expectations

With daily news about the nationwide (and global) housing collapse resulting from parabolic price appreciation followed by parabolic interest rates, I want to use this week’s column to check-in on what we’re seeing locally and remind everybody that what you read in the news is generally going to be the most attention-grabbing data points and that our market is likely to experience a much more modest correction than many other markets nationwide, as we saw during the Great Recession.

My Take on Local Pricing Behavior

I shared some detailed thoughts and observations last month in a column addressing price drops in Arlington and the TL;DR version is that 1) yes prices have dropped relative to their peak this spring, 2) there’s not nearly enough data available locally to say with any statistical confidence how much that drop has been, and 3) my observation was/is that market-wide in Arlington we’ve lost most/all of the appreciation we saw in the first 4-5 months of 2022 ,but 2021 prices are still mostly holding up. Keep in mind that in a volatile, low inventory market (current state) pricing is more randomized and case-by-case than it usually is, so you’ll see plenty of individual examples that buck the aggregated trends/assumptions.

Underlying Arlington Market Performance Data for Detached Homes

This week, I thought I’d share some charts of underlying market performance metrics to help illustrate what our market is experiencing. Here’s how I approached the data this week:

  • Detached (single-family) homes only. I’ll probably look at condos next week.
  • Resale data only aka no new construction because performance metrics used in this column for new construction aren’t usually representative of the market
  • I used data from 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2022 because I think it offers a helpful snapshot of recent Arlington markets to compare 2022 to. 2017 was our last “normal” market because Amazon HQ2 was announced Nov 2018 and that sent data in unusual directions. 2019 was the first full year with the Amazon bump, but pre-COVID market, and 2021 was a full year of COVID frenzy buying with normal seasonal behavior (2020 was totally out of whack on seasonality).
  • All data is presented by the month a home was listed in so we can measure how home sales performed based on the month they came to market instead of the month they closed (closed data is a lagging performance indicator)
  • Net Sold = Sold Price less Seller Credits

**An important caveat to this data is that I either did not use or must caution your interpretation of this year’s September, October, and November data because it is incomplete for purposes of this analysis. There are 15, 22, and 19 homes actively for sale that were listed in September, October, and November, respectively, which will have a significant influence on the performance metrics for those months when they do contract/close and most likely will result in worse performance metrics than those months currently show.

Note there are 2 homes for sale listed in each month May-July and 7 for sale from August that will likely pull down the performance metrics for those months once they contract/close, but not enough for me to be concerned about the resulting data being presented for those months

Net Sold Price to Original Ask down 9.3% in 6 Months

The average net sold to original ask dropped from a March peak of 105.9% to 96.6% in August. I suspect that once September-November listings close and we can start filling in those fields, we’ll see that number fall further but maybe not significantly because asking prices have started to react to weaker market conditions and many sellers are coming off their expectations for spring 2022 prices.

Of note, this performance metric is coming more in-line with 2017 metrics. I’ll be interested to see if performance metrics stabilize around 2017 numbers, pre-Amazon HQ2, or if they worsen. My guess is that they’ll worsen slightly compared to 2017 through the end of the year and come more into balance in 2023 (pending interest rate movements).

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Average Days on Market 4.8x Higher in August than February ‘22

Unsurprisingly, the average days on market has skyrocketed relative to earlier this year from 9 days in February to 43 days in August. August ’22 is still lower than August ’17, but the August average will increase once the 7 properties still for sale from August contract/close. 

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Homes Selling Within 10/30 Days Go from Record High to Low

One of my favorite performance metrics is the percentage of homes that sell within 10/30 days. I think it beats average and median days on market for a true understanding of the pace of a market. As opposed to average days on market, these charts indicate that our market pace is slower than 2017, on a seasonal basis.

We’ve gone from 82% of homes listed in March selling within 10 days to just 27% in October. Similarly, at least 90% of homes listed February-April sold within 30 days compared to 45% and 44% selling within 30 days in August and October, respectively. That is a massive change in market pace within 4 months!

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Looking Ahead

I expect the performance metrics of August-October to worsen as more of those listings contract/close and November-December to come in below 2017 numbers. It’ll be a bit difficult to truly understand the aggregate effect on pricing because Arlington is a relatively small housing market, but I’ll do my best to come up with some accurate measures once we’re far enough into 2023 and enough 2022 listings have sold. Ultimately, the tale of local home values will be told in how long it takes interest rates to settle back down into the expected 4.5-5.5% range (don’t hold out for sub-4% rates again).

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, 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 discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH @properties, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.

Are Home Prices Dropping In Arlington?

Question: I’ve read a lot of bad news about the real estate market, how is that playing out in Arlington?

Answer: Bad news sells…keep that in mind as you get your daily/weekly dose of headlines that the housing market is collapsing under the weight of high interest rates and overinflated prices. With that said, I’m not about to deliver a rosy picture of the Arlington real estate market, but it’s important to keep in mind that most of what you’ll see in the news will be cherry-picked statistics and stories around the country/region that are likely more extreme than what our market will experience overall.

Arlington remains one of the most stable, reliable real estate markets in the country. We are absolutely feeling the effects of a dramatic tide shift in demand, but just as our market didn’t see meteoric price increases like other markets from Loudoun County to Tampa to Boise during Summer 2020 to Spring 2022, we most likely won’t experience as extreme of a pullback while interest rates remain high.

Usually, you’d scroll down and see a lot of charts and data from me in an article like this, but I don’t think we have enough of the right data yet to tell an accurate story of property values in Arlington. So this week is more of a stream of conscious of my thoughts on property values, with a few data points sprinkled in. I welcome any and all theories, agreements, and disagreements in the comments section!

Have Prices Gone Down?

The short answer is “yes,” prices have come down from their 2022 peak. By how much? That is a very difficult question to answer and there’s no reliable way for us to know at this point. So let’s talk about how I think we should we talking about prices based on what we do and do not know at this stage:  

What we do know:

  • The prices we saw in the first half of this year are out of reach, in most cases
  • In the last seven days, 52 properties in Arlington (12.5% of homes for sale) have cut their asking price, which is a pace consistent with previous seven-day windows. Odds are this pace increases as we get closer to, and into, the holidays.
  • Price reductions and sale prices are not being discounted anywhere close to enough to offset the difference in monthly payments between earlier this year and now
  • The market always slows in the summer and continues to taper off through the end of the year (with the exception of September/early October), we’re just experiencing a more dramatic version of seasonality because of the sharp interest rate increases that have paralleled the traditional seasonal slowdown and because of where we’re coming from – insane demand for nearly two years.
  • Supply coming to market is down, contract activity is down, and showing activity is down all about 20-30% year-over-year

What we don’t know:

  • What is the appropriate baseline to judge price change from? Is it the relatively short window of peak pricing from roughly February-May 2022? If you want headline news, sure, but if you want a more accurate/helpful perspective on market conditions, you probably want to use a wider data set that goes back to Q2/3 2021.
  • We don’t have anywhere near enough data points after the market inflection this summer to assess market price changes in Arlington (or even Northern VA or the DC Metro, in my opinion) and because sold price data lags so much behind shifts in market condition, we won’t truly know what the pricing effects were on Q3/Q4 markets until at least February 2023 because many homes struggling to sell now won’t show up in sold data until then.
  • There’s no precedent for how buyers as a whole will respond to such extreme interest rate increases (see chart below I saw last week on MortgageNewsDaily.com that highlights the historical significance of recent rate increases), so it makes pricing challenging for sellers (and buyers, for that matter). Days on market has increased 2-3x or more for most sub-markets and the number of showings are down by about 30-35% year-over-year so it can also be very difficult for sellers to infer whether their time on market is price induced or not. A lot of current pricing is based on seller motivation and their hope/fears of market conditions 3-6 months from now.

The Big Unknown (hint: interest rates)

The most significant “what we don’t know” is what will happen with interest rates in the coming months/year. And please save me the “interest rates are still low relative to the last 30 years” non-sense. The fact is that buyers, homeowners, and prices have adjusted for sub-5% rates over the last 15 years and a long-term reversion back to the 6-8%+ range will be painful.

Per MortgageNewsDaily.com, the average 30yr fixed rate is ~7-7.3%, depending on the data source (see chart below). What we don’t know is how long we’ll have unusually high interest rates and that is ultimately what will drive changes in property values in Arlington, regionally, and nationally (I know, stating the obvious here).

Barring a change in Fed policy (e.g. reducing expected Fed Rate increases or bringing liquidity to the mortgage market), it seems unlikely rates will drop much or at all in Q4. High rates compounded with the normal seasonal slowdown means that there will be plenty of discounted sales from motivated sellers who don’t want to hold out until 2023, but when we eventually aggregate all the sales data from Q3/4, I’m not sure it will amount to an eye-popping drop in prices across the entire Arlington market (maybe 5-10%, depending on your baseline data).

I think the problems (aka a double digit drop in home values over a longer 6-12 month period) will show up in Q1/2 2023 if interest rates are still 7% or more through Q1 2023. I think that is when we’d start to see property values in and around Arlington drop as a whole, by uncomfortable amounts (maybe below 2021 prices).

On the flip side, if rates come down by late Q4/early Q1 and we start seeing 6% or lower averages on the 30yr fixed, that would coincide with our normal ramp-up period into the spring and the market could very quickly turn around. I would bet that if we see the average 30yr fixed rate get to the mid 5% range or less in Q1, we will see a rapid return to competition as buyers who have been sidelined due to high rates in the 2nd half of 2022 return to the market and meet the normal churn of new buyers introduced to the market in the new year.

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If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, 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 discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH @properties, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.

Resale Value of Home Improvement Projects

Question: We are planning to put our home on the market this spring and seeking advice on home improvement projects to maximize our sale. What guidance do you have on home improvement projects with the best resale value?

Answer: The decisions you make about money you do or do not spend improving your home prior to a sale can influence your bottom line more than most other decisions you make during the sale process. They’re also the decisions you’re most in control of, so take your time and plan carefully.

Most Remodeling Projects Lose $$$ on Resale

Remodeling.com publishes an annual report showing the resale return of specific remodeling jobs, based on region of the country, and the 2022 report was published earlier this month. Unfortunately, I can’t share the DC-area report because of copyright issues, but it’s worth visiting the link yourself (they require some basic info).

The findings of their report show that the majority of projects (e.g. bathrooms/kitchen remodel, new roof/windows/siding), done individually, return just 50-80% of the cost. I have seen another study by Zillow that shows similar projections.

There are, of course, always exceptions to this guidance. For example, if most of your home has been updated except for one room/bathroom, you will probably get a much better return making modest improvements to the lagging space to bring it up to par with the rest of the home. Another example is improving something that is in exceptionally bad condition such as replacing old, rotting single-pane windows that don’t function and have air leaks; you’ll probably earn yourself close to or above 100% return on this work rather than the ~65% determined by the Remodeling.com study.

So when considering larger scale home improvement projects – kitchen reno, new roof, porch addition – it’s rarely a good idea to do this work strictly for resale purposes, but only if you’re going to realize personal value from it.

Should You Ever Spend on Listing Prep?

The study mentioned above is in reference to more expensive home improvement projects and does not include the most common (and profitable) work done for listing prep like painting, power washing, cleaning, landscaping, and flooring.

Prior to most sales, every homeowner should make a list of possible repairs and improvements and gather pricing for all worthy projects. If you plan to hire a real estate agent for your sale, I highly recommend doing this with your agent, who should have a good understanding of profitable vs unprofitable projects for your market/property type and have a team of contractors available to support the work. They should have a deep enough knowledge of buyer preferences, your sub-market, and project cost to prepare a set of listing prep recommendations based on your home and budget, rather than a generalized one-size-fits-all plan.

After you prepare a full list of potential improvements, you can bucket them in tiers and analyze each tier for cost, project timeline, and impact on the expected resale value to determine which improvements make the most sense. 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 bathroom if the rest of the home is updated so that the one bathroom doesn’t drag down the value of the other improvements.
  • 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 (note, a real estate agent will generally handle project management)
  • If you’ll live in the home during work, the inconvenience of having work done while you’re there
  • If you’ll move out before starting work, the carrying cost while work is being done
  • Risk of something going wrong during the work (applies more to larger projects)
  • Contingency budget for unexpected work that may come up during the project(s)

Always Seek 100%+ ROI

There’s no doubt that remodeling your kitchen 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, plus other factors like market conditions and property type, is crucial to making investments that generate profit, not just a higher price.

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, 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 discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH @properties, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.

Are you Informed about Real Estate (Reader Poll)?

I would love to hear more from you in comments or by email (Eli@EliResidential.com) about your opinions on the availability of good real estate content – national or local market information, investing, best practices/how-to, etc. Whether it’s content you’d like to see here in my column or content you wish you could access from other sources, I’d love to hear!

Question #1: Are you informed on the real estate market?

A1: Yes, I seek out information and data regularly
A2: Somewhat, the news I follow includes enough to keep me informed
A3: Not really, I occasionally hear/read the headlines
A4: No, I don’t get any exposure to real estate news or information

Question #2: Are you happy with the real estate information/news you receive?

A1: Yes, I get exposure to the type and amount of real estate information I want
A2: No, I get real estate information but it’s not what I want
A3: No, it’s hard to find real estate information

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, 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 discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH | @properties, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.

Algorithm-based Real Estate Losing Millions in Northern VA

Question: I have recently seen two properties from Open Door listed for less than what they paid for it. Is that common for them or are these outliers?

Answer:

What is Algorithm-based Real Estate?

Algorithm-based buying and selling, also known as iBuying (2019 article here for more details), is when large companies/investors use algorithms (e.g. Zestimates) to assess a home’s value, purchase it (cash), and then resell it for a (hopeful) profit. These are arms-length transactions using corporate-level strategies rather than local ones.

The idea is that there are enough homeowners who value the ease and flexibility offered by iBuyers (cash, quick closings, no showings, etc) over getting a higher price that there’s billions in business for these companies (Open Door is currently valued over $3B). The acquisition and resale values of homes are determined by algorithms that these companies believe give them a clear picture of local markets across the country and competitive advantage at scale.

Zillow lost about $1B over 3.5 years using their pricing algorithms and shut down their iBuying business last year (article here for more details). After Zillow shuttered their iBuying business, it left Open Door as the biggest player in the industry. What makes them different than Zillow is that iBuying is their core business; for Zillow it was a supplemental revenue stream that risked hurting their core business.

I think the business in fundamentally flawed for many reasons, one of them being the massive disadvantages iBuyers are at during shifting market conditions. In strong markets, sellers can achieve the same or similar terms from everyday buyers and iBuyers are competing with everyday buyers on a house they haven’t seen, in a market they don’t know. In a weakening market (like we’re in now), properties they bought months earlier may be worth the same or less than they are when they’re being resold, so profits are smaller and losses much more common. 

The greater DC Metro area is a relatively small, unattractive market for iBuying for multiple reasons, one being our diverse housing stock makes it difficult to value/project using algorithms; areas with large scale tract housing tend to much more popular with iBuyers (and corporate buy and hold investors) because it’s much easier to calculate market values.

How It’s Going…

As noted earlier, Zillow exited the iBuying business after ~$1B in losses over 3.5 years, leaving Open Door (market cap $3B+) as the main players in this category. I was curious how Open Door’s business is performing in Northern VA so I dug into their data from this year.

I looked at all of Open Door’s currently active (88), currently under contract (29), and sold (35) properties in 2022 and found 152 properties. I was able to find Open Door’s purchase price on 112 of those properties via public records.

Of the 112 homes I found Open Door’s purchase price on, the total acquisition price for these properties was $63,464,400, for an average of $566,646 per property, ranging from $207,100 to $1,031,800. If we assume their average purchase price held for the 40 properties I couldn’t find an acquisition price for, we can estimate their total acquisition price for all 152 properties in this data set (Northern VA sold in 2022 or currently under contract or listed for sale) to be $86,130,257.

Based on the analysis below, I think they may end up losing $5M-$6M+ on these investments.

Known Losses on Closed, Under Contract, and Listed Homes

First, let’s take a look at the gains/losses I can calculate (Known Gains/Losses) based on the known data which is:

  • How much Open Door paid for 112 properties
  • How much settled properties sold for (including closing cost credits to the buyer)
  • How much under contract and active properties are listed for
  • That Open Door pays 2% of the sale price to buyer agents (note: in 2021 over 96% of sellers offered at least 2.5% to buyer agents, see analysis here).

I do not know what their other direct costs are including closing costs (on purchase and resale), carrying costs (taxes, HOA fees, utilities), improvements/repairs, marketing, etc but I will address those later in this article.

Here are some highlights on the Known Gains/Losses:

  • Known Gains on sold properties are just over $390,000
  • Known Losses on properties under contract or actively for sale are over -$1,458,000 if you assume the property sells for what it is currently listed at (unlikely, more on this later)
  • For the 40 properties I do not have the Open Door acquisition price for, I can confirm that they sold five properties for $479,413 less than they originally listed them for (including the 2% commission) and for the 35 homes currently for sale or under contract that I don’t have the Open Door acquisition price for, they’re listed for $1,727,003 less than the original asking prices
  • Of the 35 homes sold, they spent an average of 53 days on market and accepted a price on average 3.8% below the asking price. Only three sold over ask and another three sold for asking. These metrics fall well short of what sellers experienced earlier this year (the average home sold much faster and for at or above the list price).
  • The average property tax liability on these 152 homes is estimated to be roughly $71,000 per month
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Projected Losses on Under Contract and Listed Homes

In the section above, I calculated “Known Losses” on properties currently under contract and currently listed for sale by using the most recent list price as the projected sale price, but the reality is that most, if not all, will sell for less.

Of the 35 properties sold in 2022, Open Door accepted an average of 3.8% below their most recent list price with only three selling for over ask and just three more selling for asking price. This was during one of the hottest real estate markets ever, when the large majority of homes were selling for at or above the asking price.

If we assume that all properties currently under contract or for sale will sell for an average of 3.8% below the current list price (that’s probably too optimistic for Open Door), the projected Known Losses on the remaining homes is nearly $3,252,000!

Furthermore, this only accounts for losses on the 82 homes under contract or for sale that I know the Open Door acquisition price of, there are an additional 35 homes that are under contract or for sale that I do not have the acquisition price on so those homes could easily account for another $1M-$1.5M in projected Known Losses.

Additional Unknown Costs

There are plenty of additional direct and indirect costs that we know exist, but would be difficult or impossible for me to calculate including direct costs like their closing costs (e.g. transfer taxes) on the acquisition and resale, months of carrying costs like property taxes, Condo/HOA fees, and utilities, and any improvements/repairs prior to resale (it doesn’t appear they do much). There are also plenty of indirect costs of the operation including salaries of staff working on the deals, marketing each property, and more.

It’s likely that Open Door is taking on roughly $1M-$1.5M in additional direct unknown costs for these 152 transactions.

What Can We Conclude?

I think that we can safely assume that Open Door will be taking $5M-$6M+ in direct losses from the 152 homes they currently have for sale, under contract, or sold in 2022 in Northern VA.

For a company currently valued over $3B, these losses are meaningless; and Open Door reported nearly $1.5B in gross profit over the past 12 months (but losses on Operating Income), so clearly they’re winning big in other markets, but what conclusions can we draw from Open Door’s experience?

In my opinion, the most concerning data from Open Door’s Northern VA activity is not the millions in losses it’ll take on currently for sale and under contract properties, but the poor performance of their closed sales from earlier this year in a historically strong market. When you account for the unknown additional direct costs on those sales, Open Door is likely coming in at roughly break even. Additionally, the days on market and sold price to ask price ratio data (two key measures of resale success) is much worse than the rest of the market.

We can reasonably conclude that they overpaid for their acquisitions because they generated little-to-no profit, despite a rapidly appreciating market and we can conclude that their resale process/strategy (pricing, prep, listing management, negotiations, etc) performs significantly worse than market average.

As I mentioned above, they clearly are not having these problems in all markets because they’ve generated significant gross profits from their transactions (although they’re taking losses in Operating Income). Many markets are much easier to operate in with an arms-length, hands-off approach. Our market is not. I’ll leave you with some thoughts:

  • Local markets behave very differently and present vastly different nuances that make a national approach to local real estate difficult to execute
  • The greater DC Metro area market is a difficult one for algorithms to figure out because of the diversity in housing stock and nuances of price shifts over small geographic areas
  • The greater DC Metro area market will be a difficult market for high volume corporate buyers to profit from without taking a localized approach, which is expensive and complex
  • Our market is overwhelmingly full of smart, educated, and savvy home sellers and buyers relative to other markets which means that we are more likely to exploit flaws in corporate-level buying/selling strategies that are not specifically tuned to our market or markets like ours
  • There are plenty of examples where algorithms and/or arms-length, uninvolved are successful, there’s excessive risk of that approach in our market and it is unlikely to be more profitable than time-tested, human expertise in the long-run or at scale

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, 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 discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH | @properties, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.

Pay Closer Attention to Your Condo Homeowners Insurance (HO-6)

Question: What is the difference between my individual condo insurance and the Association’s master insurance policy and do I need my own insurance?

Answer: Every condo association has its own (expensive) Master Insurance policy to cover the common elements and limited common elements, but there are substantial gaps between the association’s policy and what you’re personally liable for without an individual HO-6 policy. Most people shop for the cheapest, fastest individual insurance policy and apply just enough coverage to meet the lender’s requirements, but that may put you at financial risk.

To explain common gaps between master policies and HO-6 (individual condo) policies, I’d like to re-introduce Andrew Schlaffer, Owner and President of ACO Insurance Group. Andrew is an expert in Master Insurance policies and has helped multiple local condo association’s reduce their cost and improve their coverage since writing a column on the topic last year. If you’d like to contact Andrew directly to review your association’s master policy, you can reach him at (703) 595-9760 or andrew@acoinsgrp.com.

Take it away Andrew…

Master Insurance vs Individual Insurance Policy

Nearly all master insurance policies in this area are written on a Single Entity basis which means coverage extends to general and limited common elements but also extends within individual units to fixtures, appliances, walls, floor coverings, and cabinetry, but only for like kind and quality to that conveyed by the developer to the original owner.

Items not covered by the master insurance policy and are generally not the association’s responsibility include:

  • Personal Property (clothes, electronics, furniture, money, artwork, jewelry)
  • Betterments and Improvements (demonstrable upgrades completed after the initial conveyance)
  • Additional Living Expenses (the cost to live at a temporary location, storage fees, loss of rents)
  • Personal Liability (provides protection for bodily injury or property damage claims arising from your unit)
  • Loss Assessment (triggered only if there is a covered cause of loss and the master insurance policy limits are exhausted; this assessment would apply collectively to all unit owners)
  • Medical Payments (no fault coverage available for injured guests within your unit)

Condo owners should purchase an individual condo insurance policy (HO-6), which is also required by lenders. This policy can provide coverage for the items listed above.

Review Your Dwelling Coverage

Dwelling Coverage should be included in every HO-6 policy to avoid significant out-of-pocket expenses. Many condo associations can hold you responsible for expenses that fall under the master policy deductible that are caused by the owner’s act, neglect, misuse, or carelessness. Due to the rise in water damage losses, many insurance carriers are increasing their deductibles, which in turn spurs the need for homeowners to adjust their dwelling insurance limit.

In a recent instance, a condo suffering from significant water damage losses was required by its insurance carrier to increase the master insurance policy deductible from $10,000 to $25,000. In this community, each homeowner should have at least $25,000 of dwelling coverage to indemnify them for the deductible expense in the event a claim arises from their unit. If coverage is not available, the homeowner would either pay this expense personally or the association can put a lien on their unit.

Dwelling coverage should also include a homeowner’s betterments and improvements (improvements made above what the builder originally delivered), including those completed by prior owners. Most lenders will require at least 20% of the unit’s market value insured under this coverage as well. 

What Information to Share with Your Insurance Provider

You should always review the condo association’s governing documents and understand the applicable statutory requirements (i.e. Virginia Condominium Act) and lender requirements to verify their individual responsibilities, including maintenance/repair and insurance. Along with sharing the association documents, homeowners should also provide their personal insurance agent with the following:

  • What is the master policy deductible? ($5,000, $10,000, $25,000)
  • What approach is used for the condominium insurance coverage? (Single Entity)

My Recommendation for HO-6/Other Individual Policies

Thank you, Andrew, hopefully this helps at least a handful of readers better protect themselves.

I find that most buyers go straight for the path of least resistance and cheapest premiums for their insurance coverage. Adding coverage to your existing auto policy in 5-10 minutes probably means that nobody reviewed your association’s Master Insurance policy and thus you’re at risk of coverage gaps. Personally, I’d rather pay a bit more to know that my policies have been designed with some personal attention and reviewed annually for gaps. Andrew and his team can handle this for you as well.

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, 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 discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH | @properties, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.

Housing Slowdown More Extreme in Outer Suburbs

Question: Are you seeing different patterns in the housing market slowdown in different parts of the region?

Answer: In September 2020, I wrote an article highlighting how extreme the differences were between the demand shift in Arlington compared to outer suburbs like Fairfax and Loudoun Co. In short, Arlington was competitive before the COVID surge and the outer suburbs lagged far behind it, but once the COVID surge began, Arlington became moderately more competitive while the outer suburbs experienced an extreme shift in market conditions, becoming more competitive than Arlington in just a few months.

Fast-forward two years and we are seeing something of a rubberband-effect as the entire housing market slows down, with noticeable shifts in all markets, but more extreme shifts in the outer suburbs. Not that we are witnessing anything close to a crash, the market is still good for sellers, but very different than what we’ve seen the last two years.

Note: this analysis focused on the single-family/detached housing market, not condos or townhouses

Outer Suburbs Slowing Faster, Arlington King of Stability

Months of Supply (MoS), a measure of supply and demand that calculates how long existing inventory levels will last based on the current pace of demand (lower levels favor sellers), tells the story better than any other metric.

In the charts below, you can see our regional story of the pre-COVID, COVID, and current real estate market play out:

  • Competition in the outer suburbs generally trailed the DC and Arlington markets, offering buyers more time and leverage in their purchase decisions
  • After Amazon announced HQ2 in November 2018, MoS in Arlington dropped sharply as demand picked up and supply dropped, with a more modest, lagging effect on the surrounding markets
  • The COVID market from roughly summer 2020-spring 2022 sent MoS lower (favorable to sellers) in all markets, but the drop in MoS in outer suburbs was more extreme, pushing those markets well below Arlington and DC, making them extraordinarily competitive
  • As of July 2022, MoS in the outer suburbs was still lower than Arlington and DC, but rapidly increasing. The year-over-year increase in MoS in Loudoun County was 94.4%, nearly double what it was in July 2021. The increases in MoS were 67.4% (DC), 41.6% (Fairfax Co), and 27.8% (Arlington).
  • You can see the steadiness and strength of the Arlington housing market playout over the past five years in these two charts
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Market Shift is Demand-Driven

You can blame the sudden market shift almost entirely on a drop in demand, not more listing volume. Absorption Rate (AR) measures the percentage of homes going under contract compared to the number of homes for sale and is a good way of measuring demand.

In the charts below, check out the massive spikes in demand for Loudoun County during the market peaks and the rapid fall over the last few months. You’ll notice in the five-year history that the AR for all four markets shown was pretty similar pre-COVID, increased far rapidly in the outer suburbs during the COVID market, but in just the last couple of months, all four markets have come together to their “natural” pre-COVID levels.

The AR in Loudoun Co dropped 60.1% year-over-year in July and Arlington had the lowest year-over-year drop in AR of the four markets, at 35.7%. DC dropped by 48.9% and Fairfax Co by 40.6%. Loudoun Co capped out at an astonishing 3.1 AR in February, fell to 1.49 by April, and came in at .57 in July. Loudoun and Fairfax Cos remain slightly ahead of Arlington and DC, but I suspect those rankings will reverse in the August/September readings.

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Want another sign of lower demand? The average sold price as a percentage of the asking price has dropped from 105.1%-106.7% in April to 100.7%-101.4% in July. Keep in mind that these are trailing metrics because they are based on sales (usually 3-6 weeks after going under contract), so these are reading from contracts in Feb/Mar and May/June, respectively. I think we will see the average sold price to ask price drop below 100% in most or all four of these markets by the time September data is published, which will reflect contracts from July/Aug.

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Listing Activity Remains Stable

As noted above, the market shift can be attributed almost completely to lower demand because listing activity remains similar to historical volumes, even down a bit, which is an opposing force on lower demand and helping to maintain a more favorable market for sellers.

The charts below show new listings of single-family homes in Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties, and DC, following by the same chart for the DC Metro and Northern VA region, and finally a chart just for Arlington since Arlington is a bit hard to see on the first chart. The main takeaway is that across all regional markets, the number of single-family homes being listed for sale has remained steady over the past five years and the fluctuations in market conditions are almost completely driven by changes in demand.

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If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, 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 discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH | @properties, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.

2022 Arlington Mid-Year Single-Family Home Review

Question: How did the Arlington single-family home market perform in the first half of 2022?

Answer: We have reached two years of the average single-family home (SFH) in Arlington selling for
over the asking price, but like the rest of the economy, things are finally cooling down. However, the
“cool-down” data won’t start showing up for another month or two and the data you’ll see here, a
review of the first half of 2022, reflects what was mostly a red-hot market.

More Competitive, Less Price Growth?
By nearly all measures, the first half of 2022 was more competitive than the first half of 2021, yet we
got lower average and median price growth in ’22 than in ’21, compared to the first half of the year
prior.

The competition in the first half of 2022 was unlike anything we’ve seen in Arlington before with the
average SFH selling for 4.2% more than the asking price, compared to an average of 1.8% over ask
in the first half of 2021. In 2022, an insane 79% of homes sold within the first 10 days on market,
compared to 70% in 2021 and 73% of homes sold at or above asking price in 2022, compared to 66%
in 2021.

With such intense demand, one would expect to see higher price growth in 2022 than in 2021, but
that’s not the case. The average and median price change in the first half of 2022 was 7.1% and
5.6%, respectively, compared to the first half of 2021. From 2020 to 2021, the average and median
price change was 9.6% and 16.6%, respectively.

I think the reason for conflicting demand and appreciation data is two-fold. First, the 2021
appreciation is based on the first half of 2020, which included the first few months of COVID
lockdowns when the market basically froze, so those prices may have been somewhat artificially
deflated. However, the counter argument to that is comparing the first half 2020 prices to 2019 prices,
we got a healthy 5% appreciation in average price.

The second reason, and this is just a theory, is that by 2022 the market (sellers and listing agents)
knew that buyers were accustomed to paying significantly over the asking price and thus set more
conservative (lower) asking prices to ensure competition instead of setting prices that were more
reflective of actual/likely market values. Doing so would artificially inflate some demand measures
without causing a coinciding explosion in prices.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in the first half of 2020, the market has experienced the
following:

  • Median price increased by $225,000 or 23%
  • Average price increased $197,000 or 17.5%
  • Average seller credit (towards buyer closing costs) decreased by 75%
  • The number of homes sold for $2M+ increased from 5% to 11% of total sales
  • The number of homes sold for under $1M decreased from 53% to 31% of total sales


22205 Leads Growth, 22201 Still Most Expensive
The 22201 and 22207 zip codes remain significantly more expensive than other Arlington zip codes
as the only two with an average price higher than the county-wide average. The 22205 zip code has
benefitted from tremendous growth over the past five years and led the way in the first half of 2022
price growth, adding 12.7% to its 2021 first half average.

After gaining 19.8% in 2021, 22204 settled back down to a 5.1% increase on average price in 2022
and remains the only zip code with an average price below $1M, but with more new construction
popping up throughout the 22204 neighborhoods, I don’t expect the sub-$1M average price to last
much longer.

Market Conditions Are Demand-Driven
We hear a lot about under-supply being the main cause of extreme competition and significant price
appreciation. While that is true — we have been running low over the last few years on homes actively
listed for sale — the reason for the low supply is almost exclusively demand-driven (high absorption
rates) not because the number of homes being listed for sale has collapsed. As you can see from the
chart below, illustrating the number of SFH listed for sale in each quarter over the last decade, the
amount of inventory coming to market has remained relatively consistent.

What has changed is how quickly those homes are being purchased and that has caused the
average number of SFH actively for sale to drop significantly, per the chart below. One thing that is
particularly well illustrated is how much more of an effect the Amazon HQ2 announcement
(November 2018) had on demand, and thus active supply, compared to the COVID market that had
such a dramatic effect on other regional and national markets.

Looking Ahead
We have absolutely seen a shift in market conditions over the last couple of months. Good homes are
sitting on the market through the first week(s), more sellers are reducing their asking price, and
buyers are negotiating more contingencies.

This is all, in my opinion, a very good thing. This is not the bottom falling out in Arlington, rather just
regaining some much-needed balance.

Will softer market conditions lead to a drop in prices? Maybe a little. There will certainly be some
sales from the first half of this year that seem extraordinarily high versus comparable sales in the
second half of the year, but I think on aggregate we won’t see much of a dip in pricing, mostly just a
leveling off.

The best support for that theory comes from the fact that we didn’t experience the same extreme shift
in demand/pricing during the COVID market that other regional and national markets did. We were
already experiencing a competitive, moderately high-growth market prior to COVID due to natural
market forces created by increased demand on the news of a massive new employer, Amazon, so I
expect our market to be able to hold most, if not all, of its value through the cool-down. I also expect
things to pick right back up in 2023 if interest rates come down a bit by the end of the year, like
they’re expected to.

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, 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 discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate | @properties, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.