Question: Do you have any data available on how Arlington real estate has performed over the last ten years?
Answer: A lot has changed in Arlington since 2010. We’re less reliant on the Federal Government for jobs, you can find something to do after 6PM outside of Clarendon, and $1,000,000 definitely doesn’t go as far as it used to. BUT we still don’t have a Rosslyn-Georgetown Gondola or a boathouse; maybe in 2030…
I thought it would be cool to create an interactive chart for everybody to play around with to show how real estate values in Arlington and different Arlington sub-markets have changed from 2010 to 2020. Click on the image below to get to a page on my website that will allow you to see 2010 vs 2020 price changes based on things like zip code, bedroom count, new builds/resale, and more.
Now stop reading and go vote if you haven’t already!
Question: We are looking forward to buying our first home in 2021. Do you have any recommendations on how we should start the home buying process?
Answer: Google “home buyer tips” or “what to know before buying a home” and you’ll find plenty of advice on the topic, so I’ll include some suggestions I don’t see on most of those lists and also put my own spin on others that you have heard before.
It’s easy to come up with 3-5 things that are most important to you, but challenge yourself early to come up with 12-15 things that are important to you. Then give yourself 100 points and allocate points to each based on how important they are to you and you’ll end up with a weighted criteria list to help you focus your search and objectively compare properties.
If you want to take it to the next level, bring your weighted criteria list with you on showings and score each house out of the total points allocated to it.
Length of Ownership
This is one of the most important conversations to have with yourself/your partner. You should focus on the following:
Likely length of ownership
Difference in criteria for a 3-5 year house vs a 10-12+ year house
Difference in budget requirements for a 3-5 year house vs a 10-12+ year house
Appreciation is not guaranteed and difficult to predict, but the value of longer ownership periods is undisputed. One way longer ownership adds value is the potential for eliminating one or more real estate transactions, and the associated costs (fees, taxes, moving expenses, new furniture, etc) and stress that comes with moving, over the course of your lifetime.
If you have an opportunity to significantly increase your length of ownership by stretching your budget, it’s often justifiable. On the other hand, if your budget or future plans restrict you to housing that’s likely to be suitable for just 3-4 years (and buying now still makes sense), it’s generally better to stay under budget.
Influencers (not the Instagram ones)
Family, friends, colleagues…they’re all happy to offer opinions and contribute to your home buying process, but the input can be overwhelming and unproductive if you don’t set boundaries. Try to determine up-front who you want involved in the process and how you’d like them to be involved.
Think about how you’ve made other major decisions in life – what college to attend, what kind of car to buy, where to get married, whether to change jobs – and if you’re the type of person who likes input from your friends and family, you’ll likely do the same when buying a house. Plan ahead with those influencers so their input is productive.
Does Your House Exist?
Before jumping too far into the search process, spend a little bit of time searching For Sale and Sold homes on your favorite real estate search website/app to see if the homes selling in the area you want and within 10% of your upper budget are at least close to what you’re looking for. If not, spend some time adjusting price, location, and non-critical criteria to figure out what high-level compromises you’ll need to make and then compare those compromises to your current living situation and/or continuing to rent.
Know Your Market
We’re in a strong seller’s market for single-family and townhouses right now with low supply, high demand, and increasing prices, but the condo market is becoming more favorable for buyers.
Each sub-market behaves a bit differently and comes with its own unique set of challenges and opportunities, so take time early on to understand the sub-market(s) you’ll be involved in and what you’re likely to experience. This is something your agent should be able to assist with.
Pre-Approval & Budget
There is a lot of value in working with a lender early on in the search process. For starters, you’ll have somebody who can provide real rates and advice based on your specific financial situation/needs. A lender can only do this if they’ve reviewed your financial documents and credit. The more you put in, the more you get out.
You’ll need to have a lender pre-approval to submit an offer (seller has to know you qualify for the purchase you’re offering to make) so if you have to do it anyway, why not doing it early on so you get the most value out of your lender? It also means that you’ll be prepared to make an offer if you find the right home before you expect to be ready.
Given how competitive the Arlington/Northern VA/DMV real estate market is, the quality of your pre-approval can make a big difference when you make an offer. You should strongly consider partnering with a local lender with a great reputation to give yourself an advantage (or not put you at a disadvantage) when making an offer. Pre-approval letters from big banks and online lenders don’t go over as well in our market. If you’re looking for a recommendation, consider Jake Ryon of First Home Mortgage (JRyon@firsthome.com).
Find an Agent
The least surprising suggestion on this list! Agents come in many different forms and finding somebody who suits your personality and goals is important. Ask friends, colleagues, and family for referrals and meet with multiple people until you find the right fit.
The worst thing you can do is choose your agent based on whoever responds to an online showing request faster. A good agent can provide a ton of value being involved in your buying process 3-6+ months before you’re ready to buy. Be wary of anybody who wants you to “wait until you’re ready” before working with you.
If you’re considering buying (or selling) in the DMV in 2021 and would like to meet, feel free to email me at Eli@EliResidential.com!
Question: We are planning to put our townhouse on the market this spring and wondering if you have any advice on how we should choose what improvements we should or should not make prior to listing.
Answer: The decisions you make on what money you do or do not spend improving your home prior to a sale often influence your bottom line more than any other decision you make during the sale process. They’re also the decisions you’re most in control of, so take your time and take them seriously.
Remodeling.com publishes an annual report showing the resale return of specific remodeling jobs, based on region of the country. Unfortunately, I can’t share the DC-area report here because of copyright issues, but it’s worth going to the link (you have to provide them some basic info) to take a look yourself. The findings of their report show that the majority of projects, done individually, return just 50-80% of the cost. I have seen another study by Zillow that shows similar projections.
Note that I said when “done individually” most projects return well below 100% of the money spent, but when you combine the right improvements you can create value/profit that can add to your bottom line.
Tier Your Improvements
After you prepare a full list of potential improvements, it’s important to bucket them into tiers and analyze each tier for cost, project timeline, and impact on the expected resale value to determine which improvements make the most sense. At a high level, these tiers generally fall into three categories:
Clean-out, Clean-up: This focuses on the low cost, high return items to make a home more presentable such painting, deep cleaning, repairs, light landscaping, etc
Bring up to par: Investing in one/some more expensive projects to bring them up to par with the rest of the home. For example, improving a dated kitchen if the rest of the home is updated so that the kitchen doesn’t drag down the value of the other improvements or replacing damaged hardwood floors.
Remodel/Homeowner Flip: Similar to what an investor might do to a dated home in an expensive neighborhood, a homeowner might choose to make a major investment into updates and benefit from a significant profit
Consider All Costs
The cost of doing improvements goes beyond the cost of the labor and materials. Don’t forget to consider things like:
Your time managing the work
Inconvenience of having work done while you’re living in the home
Carrying cost while work is being done, if the home is vacant
Risk of something going wrong during the work (applies more to larger projects)
There’s no doubt that remodeling your bathroom will generate a higher sale price, but it’s rarely advisable to invest money into improvements if you won’t return more than 100% on the investment. Herein lies the challenge and strategy in planning your improvements. Understanding the profile of your likely buyers and what they value is crucial to making investments that generate profit, not just a higher price.
If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to set-up an in-person meeting to discuss local Real Estate, please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com.
Answer: What a wild year it’s been for real estate. After a huge 2019 (SFH/TH review, Condo review), the 2020 market took off in January with prices and competition up sharply. When Coronavirus hit, that momentum tapered off for a couple of months but prices remained steady because of low interest rates and low supply. The Arlington housing supply was down about 400 listings from March-June, but listing activity is surging to historically high levels in July and August, which is traditionally when we see the spring market momentum slow down.
Let’s take a look at how the single-family detached (SFD) and townhouse (TH) market performed in the first half of 2020 using some awesome charts developed by my new partner, the wonderful Alli Torban. We will take a similar look at condos next week.
Note that all of the data used in these charts is based on sales that went under contract from January-June in order to provide the most accurate reflection of the market during the first 6 months. I don’t like using the date a home sold/closed for analysis like this because closing date often lags 30-60 days behind agreement of sale (contract).
Average and median price continued to rise, but not by nearly as much as last year. The total homes transacted in the first six months dropped significantly to 710 from a previous 5-year low of 838, established in 2019.
22207 (most of North Arlington) remains the most expensive place to buy a SFD or TH and 22204 and 22206 (most of South Arlington) remain the most affordable, although we’ve seen strong appreciation in those markets over the last three years.
For new Amazon HQ2 employees hoping to find a SFD or TH to buy within walking distance of your office, your 22202 zip code offers some of the fewest purchase opportunities in the County, so you’ll want to act quickly if you find something you like.
The cost of going from a 4BR homes to a 5BR home is significant in Arlington. This is because most new (read: expensive) homes being built have at least five bedrooms and Arlington’s older housing stock mostly floats between two and four bedrooms. Finding a house with five or more bedrooms under $1M in Arlington is a difficult task.
One of the measures I like taking to gauge market competition is the percentage of homes going under contract within the first week and how much buyers are paying relative to the asking price within that window. An incredible 41% of SFD/TH contracts were accepted within the first week this year and the average buyer paid 2% more than the asking price to secure a home that just hit the market.
The key takeaways are that good homes sell very quickly and if you love a house that has just hit the market, be prepared to pay the asking price or more to secure it because if you don’t, there’s a good chance somebody else will.
As the chart above showed, this is a fast-paced market and it got even faster in 2020 with the median days on market for SFD/TH remaining at seven days and the average dropping below three weeks.
Next week I will have condo data for you. If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.
Question: Will housing inventory come back to the market after this spring’s big drop?
Answer: If you’re tired of seeing me write about the low housing supply, I don’t blame you, but it’s the most important factor in our housing market and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future. This week’s analysis digs into just how big the gap in expected vs actual housing inventory was this spring (Coronavirus) and what the future might look like as that inventory (hopefully) rolls back into the market.
20 Years of (mostly) Consistent Housing Inventory
The pace and distribution of new inventory in Arlington has been pretty consistent over the last 20 years. Inventory peaks in the spring, with about 1/3 of new listings hitting the market from March-May and then steadily declines to annual lows during the holidays, with a slight “fall bump.”
Where It All Went Wrong
Like everything else in 2020, housing inventory suffered tremendously during the COVID-19 outbreak and associated lockdowns. In the months prior to COVID-19 (December-February) the number of new listings seemed to be on track to return to, or close to, our 20-year average after a down year in 2019 (due to the Amazon HQ2 announcement). However, from March-June 2020 we ended up down 232 single-family/townhouse listings and 163 condo listings compared to the 20-year average.
My Hypothesis: Hope is on the Horizon
As shown in the first charts, there is a downward trajectory in new listings after new inventory peaks in April and May. We’re seeing drastically different market behavior this year, with a sharp positive trajectory in new listings in June (continuing in July, but not charted due to incomplete data at time of publishing).
My hypothesis is that the majority of homeowners who planned to sell this spring and held off due to Coronavirus still have every intention of selling and will likely do so between this summer and spring 2021, resulting in an above-average rate of new listings per month over the next 9 months, barring any major shifts in Coronavirus related market behavior.
I also think that more of the pent-up inventory will be released this summer/early fall because of how strong the market currently is (low interest rates, high demand) and homeowners who were prepared/preparing to sell this spring won’t want to risk the uncertainty of how Coronavirus and the election might change the market 3+ months from now.
The charts below illustrate what new listing volume might look like if half of the homes that were held back from the spring market are released onto the market from July-September and the other half is distributed in-line with the historical monthly distribution through spring 2021.
The Effect of More Inventory
At the end of the day, what everybody wants to know is how changes in market conditions will affect housing prices and buyers’/sellers’ experience in the marketplace.
Right now, prices are appreciating quickly across many sub-markets. An interesting pattern I’ve noticed over the last ~6 weeks is that there seems to be strong market support for modest price appreciation (1-3% over previous market value), but a thin layer of desperate buyers willing to pay significantly more to lock-in a home purchase.
I’ve seen this pattern show up in Arlington in about a dozen multiple offer situations where most offers center around a similar price range (modest appreciation) and one buyer blows everybody out of the water with an escalation that essentially cannot be beaten (with all contingencies waived). I recently had a listing agent inform me that the winning offer included an escalation that “pretty much didn’t end” on a single-family home listed for around $900,000.
This is great for homeowners on the receiving end of this market behavior, but incredibly frustrating for buyers. I think that one benefit of a spike in summer/early fall listings will be the satisfaction of this presumably thin layer of desperate buyers and prices will become more predictable.
Looking further down the road at the end of 2020 and into 2021, the key metric that will determine how prices react is the absorption rate – the rate of homes sold vs the number of homes being listed for sale. A rate above 1.0 means that demand is outpacing new inventory and there is significant upward pressure on prices. Economists look for an absorption rate of ~0.2 for a balanced market, and the higher the rate, the more favorable the market is for sellers.
Below is the monthly absorption rate for single-family detached homes (red) and condos (yellow) in Arlington and the DC Metro. Note that Arlington’s detached absorption rate is a bit higher if you remove new construction (unfortunately I can’t customize it in this case) and that the Northern VA market is very similar to the DC Metro market.
I expect the absorption rate and demand to remain strong through an increase in new listings which will likely mean continued support for the price growth we’ve experienced so far in 2020.
If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com
Question: What recommendations do you have for somebody just beginning to consider building a home?
Answer: If you’re considering building a home and looking for a great educational opportunity, I’d like to invite you to a walk-through with the builder of a home that’s currently under construction (3196 N Pollard St). The builder, James McMullin, is a 3rd generation Arlington home builder. At the end of July, he’s offering two educational walk-throughs for small groups during the framing stage of construction to provide a peek behind the walls.
If you’re interested in attending, please email me at Eli@EliResidential.com (I promise you won’t get spammed with marketing!).
I sat down with James McMullin to outline the key phases of building a new home from acquisition through post-completion, along with some helpful tips at each stage.
You can do this yourself or through a builder. A key competitive advantage for builders is a pipeline of quality lots.
If you acquire your own lot and find yourself in competition, it’s important to understand what type of offer terms you’re up against. Builders frequently offer existing homeowners months of free rent-back.
If you acquire a lot, make sure you establish a relationship with a builder before making an offer so they can provide necessary feedback on the feasibility of building the home you want either before making an offer or after (Study/Feasibility Study)
There are special loan programs available if you plan on acquiring your own lot. Troy Toureau (email@example.com) of Mclean Mortgage is an excellent resource for construction loans
Cost: Lots in Arlington are currently selling from $500,000 for less desirable lots/locations to well over $1,000,000
Designing the floor plan and elevations (exterior design) can be fun for some, but it’s easy for people to let this process drag on for months if they’re indecisive or unprepared
Having a great architect who understands your vision and current home design trends is critical
Full custom vs semi-custom: A fully custom home is designed from scratch to suit your tastes and will take much longer and cost much more in design fees. A semi-custom home uses a pre-designed floor plan and elevation template and you make small adjustments to suit your taste.
Cost: Semi-custom homes often range from zero design cost to a few thousand dollars, while fully custom homes usually cost tens of thousands in design fees.
In Arlington, you will submit plans for County review/approval including demolition, building (architectural), and civil (engineering) before any work can begin
It usually takes four months for permits to be approved by the County, assuming everything is submitted correctly
Cost: Permit fees vary based on a number of factors but will generally be $25,000 + for new construction.
Common pitfalls: If you are selecting fixtures and finishes, meeting timelines is often a challenge. Most people struggle to make finish decisions and the ordering process often takes longer than expected (months) with buffer needed to shipping issues or incorrect shipments. Having an experienced interior designer on-board can be helpful.
Demolition and construction often take 4-8 months and can be delayed due to weather, material shipping/availability issues, and an assortment of other factors
Cost: The cost of demolition and site prep, including utilities, generally costs about $100,000. Construction costs, including materials and finishes, generally ranges from $400,000-$700,000+ in this area
Throughout construction the County will conduct inspections of the home, but you cannot move in until the County has issued a Certificate of Occupancy (final permit approval)
You may also consider hiring a 3rd party inspector with home building experience to inspect the property through each stage of construction including the foundation, pre-drywall, and the finished home
It’s common for there to be a (long) list of punch-out items for the builder to complete after the County has issued a Certificate of Occupancy (paint touch-ups, a chipped cabinet, missing light fixture, etc). Most builder contracts require you to close on the new home within a certain number of days of the Certificate of Occupancy and allow the builder access to the home after closing to complete the punch-out list.
Minor issues, especially cosmetic ones like settlement cracks in the drywall, are common after closing and will require maintenance for the first 6-18 months. Many builders offer post-settlement touch-ups/maintenance as a courtesy.
If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.
Question: What impact is Coronavirus having on the real estate market?
Answer: COVID-19 has had a similar impact on new listings in Arlington as it has across Northern VA and the DC Metro with each market dealing with a ~30-35% year-over-year drop in April and May. However, demand in Arlington has tapered off from 2019 highs, while demand in Northern VA and the DC Metro is steadily increasing, despite everything we’ve gone through with Coronavirus.
The tapering of Arlington demand, which is still very strong relative to historical numbers, is bringing the Arlington market more in-line with supply/demand readings of the Northern VA and DC Metro markets. The below chart shows Months of Supply (a good supply/demand ratio) for each market. Months of Supply calculates how long it would take for the existing housing inventory to sell out, if no additional inventory was supplied.
Prices Up Regionally
Year-over-year prices for May sales and year-to-date sales are up significantly across the region. Across all of the counties/regions listed below, Arlington’s year-over-year growth is the lowest, which is almost certainly due to the significant appreciation in Arlington last year, after the Amazon announcement.
Keep in mind that sales data lags actual market activity because it usually takes 30-45 days for a property to close, so May sales are more reflective of March and April activity than what we’re currently seeing. This is particularly interesting because March and April were the peak of Coronavirus concerns/lockdowns. Barring any major shifts in the DC-area economy, I expect year-over-year prices to show even more growth as we get further into the year and sales reflect an even stronger buyer market.
Arlington New Listings Down
We’re used to seeing new listing supply peak from March-June, after November-February lows, with April and May almost always exceeding March’s supply. Unfortunately for many home buyers, new inventory tumbled in April and continued dropping further in May.
The May 2020 drop in new inventory represents a 32.1% decline compared to May 2019, which is particularly concerning when you consider that new inventory in May 2019 was already down 21.3% from May 2018, giving us a 47% decline in new inventory from May 2018 to May 2020.
The decline in new inventory was distributed pretty evenly across property type (single-family vs condo) and price point.
Arlington Demand Down
Absorption is a good indicator of demand, providing the rate of homes going under contract relative to total supply. Demand, and therefore absorption rate, are usually highest from February/March through May/June and have been sky-high since spring 2019, with an absorption rate of 1.0 or more in eight months since March 2019.
While the absorption rate in April and May 2020 remained high relative to pre-Amazon years, there was a year-over-year decline of 37.6% and 25.5%, respectively, indicating a tapering of Arlington demand compared to last year. However, with so few listings coming to market, there’s still high levels of competition for desirable properties that are reasonably priced.
This doesn’t mean that the bottom is dropping out in Arlington. Part of the difference in year-over-year data is due to how sharply Arlington demand rose in 2019 (post-Amazon announcement), but we’re also seeing a lot of buyers being priced out of Arlington and pushing their searches further into Northern VA.
Northern VA New Listings Down, Demand Up
Northern VA has experienced a similar drop in new listings (33.8% and 33.4% YoY decline in April and May, respectively), but is actually seeing an increase in year-over-year demand with a 32.2% increase in absorption rate in May 2020 compared to May 2019 and absorption rates exceeding 1.0 in three of the last four months.
If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.
Question: How did the April real estate market compare to what you would have expected if we weren’t going through the COVID-19 pandemic?
Expectations vs Reality
The 2018 Amazon HQ2 announcement sent demand up and supply down, creating a frenetic real estate market across Arlington and Northern VA in 2019 (2019 Review One and Two). The party continued into 2020, with rapid price growth and intense competition amongst buyers, setting the stage for the market to establish new highs. It also seemed that the volume of new listings would finally go up, after YoY increases in December and January, the first YoY gains since October 2018.
All of those expectations were put on hold when the Coronavirus outbreak shut down the economy two months ago. For the first 4-5 weeks, the market froze up, with buyers and sellers unsure if we were on the verge of a market collapse and how to safely navigate critical real estate activities. Over the last few weeks, demand seems to be coming back and there are signs that sellers are more confident in listing their homes, which should lead to more supply.
April 2020 Market Report
April was our first full month living with Stay-At-Home orders, so let’s take a look at how last month compared to April 2018/2019 and February 2020 (last full month of normalcy).
Extremely Low Supply
Low supply was part of every Arlington real estate conversation in 2018. Then Amazon came and supply got so bad that the County Board launched Housing Arlington, but 2019 felt like the trough. Then COVID-19 hit and April 2020 produced 18% fewer homes for sale than April 2019.
The condo market has been hit the hardest by low supply with an unfathomable 55% decline in condo listings in April 2020 compared to April 2018.
For additional context, new listings in April are usually 25-40% higher than in February, but this year they were only 10% higher and actually lower in the condo market.
Sharp Decline in Demand
Given the on-going competition and mostly stable housing prices, it may come as a surprise to those actively searching for a home that demand has dropped off significantly.
The rate of properties going under contract compared to the new supply dropped to pre-Amazon levels and the number of homes selling within one week of being on market dropped significantly. Condo demand suffered the most which I think is due to a combination of health concern about being in common areas and because it’s easy to delay a condo purchase with an extra 6-12 months of renting a comparable apartment.
While many homes are still getting great offers, sometimes multiples, I do see more homes sitting on the market that probably wouldn’t have in a non-COVID market. Homes with large buyer pools had so much demand before the virus that they can afford to lose a chunk of the buyer market and still generate strong interest. Homes with a more niche buyer market have had their smaller buyer pool evaporate in many cases and should prepare for a longer sales timeline.
Prices Seem Stable
The Coronavirus’ impact on pricing is still to be determined because it’ll take a while to build up enough data points to draw a reliable conclusion. Based on my experiences and those of my colleagues, it seems that there has been little or no impact on prices for most properties (with the exception of niche home, mentioned above), which can be attributed to relatively parallel declines in supply and demand.
As society adjusts to new norms and the science community continues to bring us promising news on treatments and a vaccine, I think that we’re likely to see more confident buyers and sellers over the next couple of months, which will translate into higher demand and more supply. The impact on competition and prices will depend on which moves faster, but I expect demand growth to outpace supply, at least in the next 4-6 weeks.
The big unknown is if/when there will be another seismic jolt to our health and job security that will send sellers and buyers out of the market. It seems this fall is the most likely window for a second shockwave, but this summer is shaping up to be a strong real estate market locally.
If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies in this market, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.
Question: What has been the impact of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 on the real estate market?
Answer: In this week’s review of how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting real estate, we’ll take a look at how Arlingtonians think Coronavirus will change their personal finances, how the Arlington market performed over the last seven days, and how the virus is changing the mortgage industry.
Arlingtonians Still Confident
Thank you to everybody who participated in the poll last week, we collected some really valuable information about how Arlingtonians think the virus will impact their personal finances.
Out of 1,055 respondents, 50% feel that their personal finances will either not be negatively impacted or that the impact won’t last more than six months. Over 70% of respondents don’t expect the negative effects to last more than 12 months.
These results reflect a strong local consumer (buyer) confidence and would suggest that local buyers still have enough confidence in their finances/income to make a long-term investment, like buying a home. When you consider the recent McKinsey study (below) on the most vulnerable jobs, you can see why Arlingtonians, many of whom make over $70k/year, remain confident in the face of a global economic crisis. Income/job security is likely the most important consideration for people determining what the negative impact of COVID-19 will be on their personal finances.
Arlington Market Update
New inventory tanked over the past week and we saw the largest week-to-week drop in the number of properties that went under contract. It’s hard to say for sure whether the decline in contract activity is demand-based on a result of less inventory, but it’s likely a combination of the two.
With very little new inventory coming to market and the Coming Soon pipeline drying up, total inventory is dropping quickly, which should keep home values relatively protected, despite declining demand.
Past Seven Days (Arlington)
Seven Days Prior (Arlington)
Showing activity is down significantly compared to a normal spring market, but it seems to be stabilizing at an average of 4-5 scheduled showings per week on properties listed in Arlington. I think that significant increases/decreases in showing activity will be a leading indicator of how the market feels about the risk of Coronavirus to public health and the local economy.
Major Changes To Mortgages
The mortgage industry has experienced rapid and impactful changes over the last month that will surely change demand for months or years to come. I checked in with Jake Ryon of First Home Mortgage (JRyon@firsthome.com) on the top three ways Coronavirus is impacting the mortgage business.
Elimination of Products/Tightening of Requirements
Mortgage products are designed around a bank’s ability to accurately predict a borrower’s ability to repay their loan, so as economic uncertainty rises, a bank’s ability to forecast borrower risk decreases and banks become more risk averse.
As a result many loan products not backed by the Federal Government are being eliminated including loans like sub-20% down payment jumbo loans without Mortgage Insurance (a popular mortgage product locally), Non-Qualified Mortgages (borrowers with lower credit scores or high debt-to-income ratios), and mortgages for investment properties. I’ve also heard that Second Trust loans, a popular product that allows you to purchase your next home without making it contingent on the sale of your current home, may be up next for elimination.
I suspect that changes to jumbo loan programs and a potential elimination of Second Trust loans will have a material impact on the DC Metro’s ~$1M-$1.5M market.
If you’re currently searching for a home, you should regularly check-in with your Loan Officer, especially before making an offer, to confirm that the loan product you plan to use still exists and the requirements haven’t changed.
Interest Rate Volatility
Interest rates hit all-time lows in the beginning of March, but a week later spiked in response to an overwhelming rush of refinances. The first half of March was one of the most volatile periods for mortgage rates ever, including the most volatile day ever. Since the Fed stepped in with liquidity, rates have stabilized, but are still relatively volatile.
Rate volatility is generally bad for demand because buyers take comfort in certainty. Here’s a chart showing rate movement over the last six months to highlight how crazy the last six weeks have been:
Increased Loan Forbearance
Loan forbearance (temporary pause on mortgage payments) is skyrocketing in the US, and will likely be another exponential chart to watch over the next few weeks/months. Borrowers pay a Servicer (lender) and the Servicer pays investors, who are guaranteed to receive their payments from Servicers even if borrowers stop paying. This has led to a massive liquidity crunch for many lenders and put their businesses in jeopardy of failing, despite efforts by the Government to relieve the pressure.
If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies in this market, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.
Be smart, be careful, be strategic. And stay home!
Question: What has been the impact of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 on the real estate market?
Answer: I hope this column finds everybody in good health. If you need to replenish your cooking oils and haven’t tried The Olive Oil Boom before, I highly recommend it. It’s a local shop in Courthouse that my wife and I love. My personal favorite is the Harissa olive oil.
If you have some local favorites that you’d like to help stay in business during tough times, please give them a shout-out in the comments section and note a personal favorite product/dish!
Financial Confidence Poll
Buyer confidence drives real estate demand, so I’d like to do a reader poll this week to measure the confidence of Arlingtonians. Thanks for participating!
Question: How long do you expect the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic to negatively impact your personal finances?
Regionally and locally we’re seeing the pipeline of new inventory dry up and sellers lose confidence. The two charts below reflect market activity in Arlington over the past seven days (left) and seven days prior to that (right). While the total Coming Soon and New Active for each seven-day period is almost identical, the Coming Soon pipeline was cut in half. You’ll also note huge increases in the number of price reductions and properties pulled off market (Temp Off, Withdrawn, Canceled, and Expired).
Demand is dropping, but homeowners are experiencing it in different ways. For example, the markets that were hyper-competitive prior to the COVID-19 crisis, such as the $600k-$900k single-family starter home market that was seeing double digit offers, are still getting strong offers, and in some cases, multiple offers. For those homes, even a 60-70% decline in demand means a few offers instead of 10+.
I inquired on five homes this weekend for two separate clients. Each was a move-in-ready detached single-family home in Arlington, Falls Church, or Alexandria priced from $695k-$875k. All five had at least one strong offer, four were expecting multiples, one had two pre-inspections scheduled and one got seven offers.
However, the number of price drops and listings being pulled from the market shows that many homeowners are experiencing something different. If your home was likely to get one strong offer before the Coronavirus lockdown, a significant drop in demand can easily mean no offers and a longer wait for the right buyer to materialize.
To gauge the odds of a successful sale (quick sale, at/near asking price), homeowners should be conscious of the profile of the buyer(s) most likely to purchase their home and try to understand how their motivation and financial security has been impacted by COVID-19. For example, dual-income families are likely feeling more financial security than single-income buyers. Buyers with kids are often more motivated because they likely have fewer alternatives than somebody buying a 1-2-bedroom condo who can more easily find a comparable rental apartment until the economy is back in order. Further, families with kids are generally buying with a longer ownership horizon and thus able to outlast whatever economic recession/depression is brought on by the virus.
Past Sever Days (Arlington)
Seven Days Prior (Arlington)
Are Prices Dropping?
Although some homes are still selling for their pre-COVID prices (which shouldn’t be happening, in my opinion, given the amount of uncertainty/risk in the market), I suspect that most homeowners are settling for a few percent less than what they would have pre-Coronavirus. You can also argue that they’re taking an even greater loss than what they would have gotten in the peak spring market (right now) had Coronavirus never been a factor.
I think that for most of the DC Metro, that’s the appropriate discount at this time, considering what we do and do not know about the future of the national/regional economy.
The price drop that most people are worried about or looking forward to, depending on which side of the transaction you’re on, is a double-digit drop like we saw during the Great Recession 12 years ago. There are myriad inputs that factor into real estate prices, but the simplest is supply and demand. If you’ve been paying attention to real estate in Arlington or the DC Metro, you know that we’ve suffered from a historically low supply of homes for sale, driven by both a lack of new inventory and high demand.
Econ101 tells us that in order for there to be a significant price drop, demand will have to recede substantially more than supply. There’s no doubt that an on-going economic shutdown will significantly reduce demand, but if changes to lending practices over the last decade and financial support from the government allow people to keep their homes, inventory will likely plunge as well. So long as inventory and demand are dropping by somewhat similar amounts, we may not see the type of dramatic price drops we saw in 2008.
To highlight just how bad the supply is around here, I pulled charts showing the months of supply in Arlington, Northern VA, and the DC Metro over the last 10 years. Note that most economists agree that a market is fairly balanced for buyers and sellers when there’s ~6 months of supply.
I also added a chart showing the corresponding change in median sold price for Arlington during that same 10 year period.
If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies in this market, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com. Be smart, be careful, be strategic. And stay home!