Arlington Condo Mid-Year Review

Question: How has Arlington’s condo market performed in the first half of 2021?

Answer: Given the tremendous appreciation we’ve seen locally and nationally on prices for single-family homes and townhouses, the mostly unchanged values of condos in Arlington highlights how much the condo market has struggled compared to the rest of the housing market. We did experience some periods of value loss in the last quarter of 2020 and early in 2021, but the first half data (and my experience in the market) suggests that prices have recovered and leveled out to about the same values we saw in 2019.

The biggest question I have is whether we will sustain these prices or see a slow decline as people adjust to new work arrangements and housing preferences in the wake of COVID. While it’s possible that we could see a delayed price surge due to sustained low interest rates and returns to offices, I think that scenario is unlikely.

This week we will take a look at Arlington’s condo market in the first half of 2021. Note that the data does not include Cooperatives (e.g. River Place) or age restricted housing (e.g. The Jefferson).

Prices Relatively Flat, Listing Volume and Inventory Up

I think the biggest story in the condo market for Arlington and the DC Metro area is the historically high number of condos being listed for sale since Q3 2020. There is clearly a flight out of condos by homeowners and investors and the demand is not high enough to absorb the extra supply, so inventory levels have returned to 2015-2016 levels when we were in the midst of a near zero-growth condo market (in Arlington).

The return to 2015-2016 inventory levels isn’t a bad thing, but the suddenness of that shift was difficult for sellers to manage after we experienced a red-hot condo market from late 2018 (Amazon HQ2 announcement) to early 2020 (pre-pandemic).

Demand Metrics Down, Disaster Avoided

Demand metrics like days on market, percentage of homes selling within a week, and the percentage of sold price to the original asking price are all down to 2017-2018 levels (pre-Amazon announcement) and prices are more reflective of what we saw in the first half of 2019.

During the pandemic, there were concerns of a fundamental shift in the condo market that would lead to a significant re-pricing of condo values but that’s clearly not the case. Sure, it’s tough for condo owners to take a step backward while the single-family/townhouse market surges ahead, but the condo market looks to be recovered and safe at this point.

If you’re interested in seeing last week’s mid-year analysis of the single-family housing market, you can check it out here.

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

Arlington Single-Family Home Mid-Year Review

Question: How has Arlington’s single-family housing market performed in the first half of 2021?

Answer: The news has been full of stories and data about the explosion in real estate prices and intense competition for single-family homes across the country. Arlington has been no exception.

This week we’ll take a look at some charts and data that highlight what we’ve experienced so far in 2021 for single-family homes (SFH) in Arlington.

Overview: Prices Up, Listing Activity Up, Inventory Down

The year-over-year median price for SFHs increased 8.6% in Q1 and 20.6% in Q2 (remember that Q2 2020 had end-to-end strict COVID lockdowns), with both quarters exceeding a median price over $1.1M, the first time that has happened in any quarter in Arlington. If you want to skip 2020 because of COVID, Q1/Q2 median prices in 2021were up 17.4% and 21.1%, respectively, compared to 2019 median prices.

After back-to-back years of below-average listing volume, the number of SFHs listed for sale in the first half of 2021 exceeded 900 homes for the first time since 2017 and ended up well above the 10-year first half average of ~860 homes listed for sale during the first half.

Despite strong listing volume, active inventory hit a 10+ year low due to demand outpacing new supply. We finished Q2 with 1.3 months of supply, which is about twice as high as Loudoun County, which is struggling tremendously with inventory levels.

Bye-Bye Affordability

Of the six zip codes with enough SFH supply to generate reliable data (22206, 22209, and 22213 don’t have enough SFH sales), only one had an average sold price below $1,000,000, compared to four in 2019!

One of my biggest takeaways from the 2021 market so far is just how quickly prices have increased in the least expensive neighborhoods. The two zip codes with the lowest average SFH price, 22203 and 22204, increased by 16.8% and 20.7%, respectively, from the first half of 2020, while the four most expensive saw increases ranging from .4% to 8.8%.

In 2020, the average home in 22201 (most expensive zip code) was 95% more expensive than the average home in 22204 (least expensive zip code). In 2021, the gap closed quickly with the average 22201 home being 62% more expensive than the 22204 average.

Price Distributions Skew High

While the largest volume of sales still falls in a sub-$1,000,000 range, the price distribution in Arlington skews high. Despite the high average/median prices, Arlington doesn’t have much of an ultra high-end market, with just three sales over $3M and just two SFH sales over $3.5M in the last five years.

Prior to this year, the percentage of sales under $800k was always greater than the percentage of sales over $1.5M. In the first half of 2021, not only were there a higher percentage of sales over $1.5M but the number of sales over $1.5M nearly doubled the number of sales under $800k!

Demand Intensifies

Arlington had more time than other markets to adjust to such intense demand because the market really took off after Amazon announced plans for HQ2 in November 2018, but the pressure of COVID and low interest rates have intensified that demand.

The number of homes sold within one week and the numbers of homes sold at or above the asking price both exceeded 60% of total sales for the first time.

Looking forward, it’s hard to see market conditions changing too dramatically any time soon. Things have slowed down a bit off peak demand as is usually the case in the summer and around the holidays, but I expect another strong fall season and a quick pick-up in January/February 2022 from a holiday lull.

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

It’s a Great Time to Remove Mortgage Insurance

Question: Can you explain what Mortgage Insurance is and if there’s any way to get rid of it?

Answer:

What is Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage insurance is an additional monthly or up-front fee added to a mortgage, usually set at .1%-1% of the loan amount, offered by either the government or private insurance companies to enable lenders to offer down payments below 20%. Mortgage insurance covers lenders for losses up to a certain amount if a borrower defaults on their mortgage.

Note: there are some sub-20% down payment products on the market for high-earning, high-credit borrowers that do not require Mortgage Insurance.

There are two types of mortgage insurance available:

  1. FHA mortgage insurance: FHA is a government program, which requires a down payment of as little as 3.5% of the sales price, and mortgage insurance is required on FHA mortgages, regardless of the amount of down payment.
  2. Conventional mortgage insurance: Conventional mortgages are home loans that are not insured or guaranteed by the government, as in the case of the FHA mortgage example. Many conventional loans are sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and thus follow these entities “conforming” guidelines.

Conventional or private mortgage insurance enables lenders to offer conventional loans with a minimum down payment as low as 3.0%-5.0%. Most 3.0% down conventional mortgages are restricted to low-to-moderate income borrowers.

How is the Fee Determined?

The cost of mortgage insurance will vary greatly, depending upon several factors:

  1. The amount of the down payment
  2. The qualifications of the borrower like credit score and debt-to-income ratio
  3. Whether the mortgage is an FHA or conventional loan
  4. The type of the mortgage such as a 30-year or 15-year loan

Mortgage Insurance Can Be Removed

If you have a Conventional Loan (not FHA), you can request that your Mortgage Insurance premium be removed from your payments once your equity reaches or exceeds 20% (loan-to-value/LTV is 80% or less). This can be a result of a natural equity increase through your monthly payments and/or through appreciating home value.

To qualify, you cannot have a late payment in the last two years and if you are making your case based on a higher market value of your home, the loan servicer will require a new appraisal (cost is usually around $500).

For Conventional Loans, your Mortgage Insurance is automatically removed once your LTV reaches 78% (equity reaches 22%) or you reach the midway point in your loan (15 years into a 30 year loan). Prior to hitting a 78% LTV, it is up to your loan servicer to decide whether to approve the removal of your Mortgage Insurance payment.

Key Takeaway

Given how much townhouse and single-family homes have appreciated recently, if you have Mortgage Insurance and have not made a late payment in the last two years, it’s a good idea to contact your loan servicer about having your home reappraised to see if you now have 22% or more equity and qualify for automatic removal or have 20%-21.99% equity and can apply for early removal.

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

Reserve Studies Required Every Five Years for Condos/HOAs

Question: How often do Condo Associations and HOA/POAs need to conduct a Reserve Study?

Answer:

Virginia Requires New Studies Every Five Years

In light of the recent condo tragedy in Miami, I thought it would be a good time to remind everybody that Virginia requires Condominium Associations and Home Owner/Property Owner Associations to conduct a new Reserve Study at least once every five years.

In addition to providing valuable financial/budget guidance, Reserve Studies are also an important way to ensure your building/community remains in safe working order and structurally sound.

What is the Purpose of a Reserve Study?

During the Study, an engineer, or team of engineers, will inspect all common elements of the building/community to provide an assessment of current condition, useful life expectancy, and projected cost of repair/replacement. A building inspection includes everything from the elevators, to foundation, to hallway carpet.

After the inspection, the Study team will provide a detailed report of their findings and an assessment of the future financial needs of the Association over the next 30 years to maintain and replace the common elements of the building/community.

In most cases, these annual financial needs are analyzed against the current Reserve Balance (Association’s savings to pay for common maintenance and replacement costs) and the current Reserve Contribution amounts to determine if adjustments need to be made to the contribution levels in future budgets. Accelerating savings for an under-funded Reserve are one of the most common reasons Associations increase dues. If the funding requirement is high enough and the repair/replacement needs are urgent, that is when Associations will consider charging a Special Assessment to fund the Reserves immediately.

Don’t Forget About Presentation

I have reviewed tons of Reserve Study reports over the years and there is a wide range in quality. In my opinion, a quality report should not only be incredibly detailed in the inspection findings, but also as detailed in the presentation of the financial projections/recommendations. It’s also critical that this information be presented in an organized and easily understood format, which is not an easy feat when dealing so much information. If you are helping your Association choose a company to lead the Reserve Study, don’t forget to review reports they’ve produced for other communities so you can see how well they present their findings.

Important for New Buyers Too

In addition to Reserve Studies being important for building maintenance and budgeting, every new Buyer into your community will receive a copy of the Reserve Study (along with a other Association documents) once they’re under contract and has a three-day review period in which time they can void the contract for a refund of their deposit. So having a current and easily understood Reserve Study report is also a critical part of keeping Buyers under contract and the resale market in your community from under-performing.

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

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.Reserve Studies Required Every Five Years for Condos/HOAs

Is The Real Estate Market Slowing Down?

Question: Have you noticed a change in the real estate market lately?

Answer:

Summer Slowdown is Normal, Likely More Pronounced in 2021

It is normal for the real estate market to slowdown as we transition from the intensity of the spring market into the summer market and we (myself, my colleagues, and lenders I’ve spoken to) have seen that shift over the last few weeks.

I don’t think we are anywhere close to experiencing a market correction, but I do think the change in market conditions from the spring market (which really began in January/February 2021) to the summer market will be more pronounced this year because of COVID.

Buyers More Distracted By Travel/Events

Now that most of our buying population is vaccinated and businesses/events are open, Buyers’ attention is finally being focused on trips, events, and visiting friends & family rather than solely on their home search. Diversions are usually highest in the summer and around the holidays, thus historically slower markets, but this summer and holiday season will be met with an unusually high number of distractions for Buyers (that’s a good thing!).

Asking Prices Catching Up

Another factor in the shift in this summer’s market is that asking prices are finally starting to catch-up, in many cases, to actual market values. During the first 3-4+ months of 2021, the sales data (sold prices) wasn’t there or wasn’t enough to give Sellers the confidence to increase their asking prices 5-10%+ over 2019-2020 prices, which is why we’ve seen such extreme price escalations this year. Now that asking prices are falling more in-line with what the market is willing to pay (based on my experience over the last 4-8 weeks), the number of offers and wild escalations should subside.

What Likely Will/Will Not Happen

Homeowners planning to sell should not worry that the bottom is falling out of the market, but expectations should change compared to previous months. Here’s what I think the shift will and will not look like:

  • WILL result in fewer total offers on competitive homes
  • WILL result in fewer properties selling within the first week
  • WILL result in Buyers negotiating better/more contingencies
  • WILL result in less extreme price escalations
  • Will result in fewer homes listed for sale (likely a 20-30% drop compared to March-May)
  • WILL NOT result in prices falling (prices should stabilize)
  • WILL NOT result in a Buyer’s market

Spring vs Summer, 2016-2019

Let’s take a look at how the Arlington real estate market shifted from spring to summer from 2016-2019 to give some historical perspective. I did not include 2020 because it will always be an outlier that provides little value for historical trends/context. I looked at four data points that I use to measure market conditions:

  1. Percentage of homes that went under contract within one week of being listed
  2. Percentage of homes that sold for at or above the original asking price
  3. Average sold price compared to the original asking price
  4. Number of homes listed for sale

Here is a summary of findings from the charts shared below:

  • Intensity of demand (under contract within a week and homes sold for at or above ask) dropped from the spring to summer season all four years, with the exception of a slight increase in the homes being sold for at or above ask in the summer of 2019 (likely due to a significant drop in supply due to the Amazon HQ2 announcement in November 2018 putting upward pressure on prices all year)
  • The average sold price to original asking price dropped each year except 2019 (remained almost unchanged) suggesting less extreme escalations and more price negotiations
  • The number of homes listed for sale in the summer dropped by about 20-30% each year compared the spring market
VA Market Trends: Arlington vs Fairfax & Loudoun County

Question: How does Arlington’s housing market compare to what you’re seeing in Fairfax County and Loudoun County?

Answer: The Arlington single-family home (SFH) market has been competitive, and prices have increased, but the shift hasn’t been nearly as dramatic as what we’ve seen further west in Fairfax County and Loudoun County.

The Arlington condo market has improved from the end of 2020/early 2021, and prices seem to be coming back, but inventory levels are still much higher than they were in the years preceding the Amazon HQ2 announcement.

Listing Activity Up In Arlington, Normal In Fairfax And Loudoun

The number of SFH listings in Arlington this spring is up noticeably compared to prior years, but the biggest story continues to be the amount of condos being listed for sale. I previously wrote about the historical volume of condo listings we had last fall and that trend has continued through this spring, with the total number of condos listed for sale from March-May significantly higher than any other spring market in the last 10+ years.

The number of SFH listings in Fairfax County and Loudoun County have been consistent with past spring markets, down slightly compared to 2018 and 2019.

Demand Meets Or Exceeds New Supply, Except Condos

Despite higher-than-average listing activity in Arlington, the SFH inventory levels remain very low because there is enough demand to absorb the extra supply. SFH inventory has remained at about one month of supply throughout 2021.

Condo demand has not met the higher-than-average listing activity and condo inventory has steadily increased through the spring, after dropping (and flattening) from 5-year highs this winter. The Arlington condo market has settled at around 2.5 months of supply for the last 6 months, which represents a market that is more favorable to sellers than buyers, but still a significant shift from the post-Amazon HQ2 market with 2-3 weeks of supply for about 18 months.

Demand in Fairfax County and Loudoun County has been exceptionally high and inventory levels remain dangerously low with just 2-3 weeks of supply for nearly the last 8 months.

Prices Are Up (Of Course)

Prices for SFHs in Arlington are up, with the median price of a SFH in Arlington exceeding $1.2M for the first time ever in May. While the prices in Arlington are up noticeably, it’s nothing compared to the massive appreciation seen in Fairfax County and Loudoun County over the last four months where we’ve seen up to 15-20% year-over-year increases in prices throughout both markets.

Condo prices have increased from late 2020/early 2021 and seem to be settling in a bit below pre-pandemic numbers. I didn’t include a chart for condo prices because there’s too much variability and it doesn’t provide much value.

Escalations Over Ask Are The Norm, Likely To Change Soon

This spring, the average SFH in all three markets has closed for 3-4.5% over the original asking price. I expect this number to come down over the next few months as asking prices catch up with what the market is willing to pay and the attention/priorities of buyers starts to shift to other things like travel, events, and seeing family and friends.

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

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

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.

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.