Ask Eli: Impact of Coronavirus on the Real Estate Market, Part 4

Question: What has been the impact of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 on the real estate market?

Answer: I hope you and your families are healthy and finding some productive ways to remain safely at home. It’s been great to see so much carryout and delivery activity at local restaurants, I hope we can keep our favorite establishments in business.

I want to shout out the Sunday evening manager at the South Arlington Ledo Pizza for the way he was expressing constant, sincere appreciation to every employee hard at work and each customer who came in. It was refreshing to hear such positivity.

This week I’ll cover some real-time market updates and take a look at how past recessions have impacted real estate.

March 30 Stay At Home Order — Executive Order 55

Yesterday afternoon, Governor Northam announced EO 55, at Temporary Stay At Home Order due to COVID-19 to further discourage gatherings and personal contact.

There was an immediate concern across the real estate community that the new order effectively shut down all real estate operations, but soon after Northam’s announcement, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR) and the Virginia Association of Realtors (VAR) announced that under EO 55, real estate business may continue to operate using best practices for social distancing and other measures recommended by the CDC, as well as avoiding any gatherings of 10+ people. Here is a link to the official NVAR comments.

That means that as of this morning showings, inspections, appraisals, closings, lending and other activities critical to a real estate transaction are all still allowed in Virginia/Northern Virginia. Public Open Houses are strongly discouraged and many companies have suspended them.

Personally, I think showings are the most questionable activity because you can make a strong case in both directions. If somebody needs to find a home, it’s fair to say that they need to see the home in person before making an offer. On the flip side, somebody seeing five properties on a Saturday afternoon to prepare for a purchase 6 months from now should not be out on showings. There’s certainly a level of personal responsibility required here.

Arlington Market Update

It seems that much of the Arlington and Northern Virginia market has softened in the past week. This is based on further decreases in showing activity and the negotiations I’ve been directly involved in or aware of via colleagues. We won’t have actual price data available for another 3-4+ weeks when homes start closing that were placed under contract during the COVD-19 lockdown period.

New inventory continued to flow into the market, but was down from the previous week. A healthy 63 homes went under contract, showing that there are still buyers out there, but many of them are likely securing better terms than they would have a month ago, and facing much less competition.

Arlington market activity over the last week

Showing activity is unsurprisingly very low, with the average showings per listing dropping to 2.25 over the past week. With an average of about 15 showings before a ratified contract, expect average days on market to start increasing. However, the showings that are taking place tend to be to ready-buyers so it should take fewer showings than it used to for the right buyer to surface.

Average showings per listing in Arlington last week
Real Estate During a Recession

The economy is in bad shape and it could get a lot worse. It’s way too early to make any predictions about the real estate market 6-24 months from now until we know just how long Coronavirus will keep businesses closed and consumers at home.

What we can do is look at the real-time/near-term impact (what I’m trying to cover every week) and what’s happened in past recessions. The 2008 crisis crushed real estate across the country (Northern Virginia/D.C. Metro fared relatively well) and is fresh on everybody’s minds, but it’s important to note some key differences between the Great Recession and other down markets.

First, that was a mortgage-based crisis so the real estate industry was hit directly. Second, prices were up despite high supply because demand was artificially high due to absurdly irresponsible lending practices that allowed people to buy much more than they could afford via low/easy entry into loans.

Mortgages over the last decade are much more conservative than the mortgages that led to the Great Recession. There are strict debt-to-income and credit limits, and predatory products/practices like zero interest balloon loans are all but eliminated from the market.

So the recent price appreciation is driven by a more natural supply/demand curve. Low supply because we’ve run out of land to build on and strong demand from much more qualified borrowers.

In three of the last five recessions, housing prices actually increased, as illustrated by the chart below from Attom Data Solutions and in a similar study by First American of the last three recessions, showing the dramatically different impact the 2008 crisis had on housing prices compared to other recessions.

Conclusion

I want to be absolutely clear that I’m not suggesting everything is going to be fine or that the real estate market won’t take a significant hit. That type of messaging from real estate “professionals” irks me almost as much as the idea that a market can simultaneously be great for buyers and sellers… that’s not how markets work (can’t help myself from the Esurance meme)!

It seems almost certain that negotiation leverage will favor buyers over the next 4-6 weeks. The critical question is whether or not buyers will have even more leverage months from now or whether markets will begin stabilizing, then return to the hyper-competitive market we had just a month ago.

The fact is that we have never experienced a complete economic shut-down like this, nor do we know how long it will last, and economic/real estate forecasting models aren’t tuned for this. It’s still too early to say with any level of certainty right now what the mid/long-term fallout will be for real estate or any other industry.

Be smart, be careful, be strategic. And stay home!

Impact of Coronavirus on the Real Estate Market

Question: How will the threat of Coronavirus impact the real estate market in 2020?

Answer: I wasn’t planning to write this, it seems a little click-baity (now my “Trump’s Impact on Real Estate” column has some competition!), but I got the question four different times in under 24 hours last week so here I am writing about it.

Too Early To Know

Nobody knows how Coronavirus is going to impact the real estate market over the next month or the next ten months because we don’t know what the real impact of the virus will be on public health and markets. According to President Trump, it could disappear one day “like a miracle” and according to others, we could face a devastating pandemic.

Yesterday’s stock market closed down nearly 8% and this morning, the Futures were up almost 4%. Uncertainty slows the real estate market down and the only certainty right now is how uncertain the markets and public are about COVID-19. It’s hard to see how this type of uncertainty doesn’t create a drag on real estate across the country, the question is how long it will last.

Beyond the uncertainty, you have the very real impact of a sharp decline in investment/retirement accounts that many people use for down payments. With many accounts down double digits over the last two weeks, some buyers may reconsider their decision to sell stocks right now.

On the other hand, interest rates are historically low, hitting all-time lows last week, and the real estate market across the greater DC Metro has been on fire since January so it’ll take a major shift in demand to slow things down as we head into peak buying season.

What I’ve Heard

So far, what I’m hearing from clients, colleagues, and other industry partners (lenders, title, etc) is that buyers are hoping the Coronavirus slows the market down so they can have a better opportunity to buy, but there seems to be very few people actually pulling out of the market or reducing offers because of it.

Currently, buyers still seem more motivated by historically low rates and lack of buying opportunities than they are concerned that the likely impact of the virus. It seems that long-term confidence in local real estate is still a stronger influence on people’s decisions.

I think this mindset could change quickly, having broad negative effects on the local real estate market, if markets continue to tank, systematic failures in the market appear (e.g. Mortgage-backed Securities in 07-08), or people begin experiencing more direct effects of the virus like work/school closures or people they know testing positive. This is an important change to watch for if you’re considering putting your home on the market in the coming weeks.

Don’t Overvalue Speculation

It’s important to distinguish between fact and speculation and not overvalue speculation. If you spend 30 minutes online today, you’ll be able to find an assortment of well-supported reasons why the markets is on the brink of another recession as well as well-supported reasons why everything will be just fine, with growth ahead.

Your decision should be rooted in things you can rely on like how long you can live happily in a home (nothing creates value like longer ownership periods) and what your best alternatives are to buying (renting, staying put) or selling (do you have a better utilization of your equity?).

Of course, you want to consider the national, regional, and local economy as well as neighborhood trends, development pipelines, and other factors that will influence appreciation/depreciation potential, but be careful not to overvalue speculation.

Early Real Estate Market Conditions Are…

Question: How is the market shaping up for 2020? Have things cooled down or picked up where they left off last year?

Answer: The early Arlington/Northern VA market conditions are…crazy. After a fast and furious 2019 for condos and detached/townhouse properties in Arlington, it looks like we’re in for another year of fast-paced sales and strong appreciation.

In some of the most in-demand markets (e.g. R-B Corridor condos and $800k-$1.2M detached) pre-inspections (buyers do an inspection before making an offer), zero contingencies, and escalations 3-10% over the asking price no longer guarantee an accepted offer because there are multiple buyers offering those terms.

From the activity I’ve seen on both the buyer and seller side of this market, it seems like sellers can safely increase their asking price by 3-5% over what 2019 sales support and soon enough appraisers will have the necessary data points to support these increases, thereby eliminating much of the current appraisal risk for financed purchases.

Activity Over The Last 30 Days

The market fired up within the first couple weeks of January, but you know I never like to make statements about the market without also backing it up with data. So here are some highlights on the type of activity we’ve had over the last ~30 days (excluding relisted homes, Coops, and age-restricted housing). The data is of 7AM Tuesday February 18:

  • 223 homes listed for sale
  • Of those 223 homes, 150 (67.3%) are sold or under contract
  • Of the 150 homes sold or under contract, only 16 (10.7%) were on the market for 10+ days and 97 (64.7%) were on the market for 6 days or less (indicative of multiple offers)
  • Of the 73 homes still for sale, 37 (50.7%) are still within their first week on the market (high probability of going under contract soon) and 16 (21.9%) are $1.7M+
  • Of the 25 that sold, only one sold for below the original asking price and it was in a condo building with a major pending lawsuit that makes it nearly impossible for a buyer to get a loan. 7 have sold for over ask.
New Supply Increasing, Total Supply Decreasing Less

There is a glimmer of hope for buyers amongst all the competition and price appreciation. Arlington had a YoY increase in new listings for December ’19 and January ‘20 for the first time since October ‘18 (Amazon HQ2 announced in November ‘18). While demand is still outpacing new supply, resulting in 45(!) consecutive months of YoY decreases in housing supply, the drop in YoY supply was below 20% for the first time since October ’18 (-8.8% drop). So what does that mean in plain English? It’s getting less bad.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Here are some of my thoughts about what the rest of the spring/2020 might look like:

  • Once more of the early sales close, asking prices should adjust upwards to reflect the current market so we won’t see the same volume of offers but I expect prices to maintain the recent increases and buyers will continue offering very attractive terms to sellers (little or no contingencies, quick closes, etc).
  • In many cases there are 5-10 losing offers for every sale so those buyers are still active and possibly even more motivated, hence why I don’t see the market slipping in a couple of months after an early surge
  • I think there’s a good chance that we continue to see YoY increases in the number of new listings as homeowners decide to take advantage of the price increases over the last 18 months to move up, downsize, or relocate to a less expensive market
  • Low interest rates, strong stock market/economic performance, and the long-term local growth potential from Amazon, Nestle, and others will keep demand high
  • I’m interested to see how the elections impact market conditions this year. Usually buyers freeze up and sellers hold back on listings in the months leading up to a national election. I wouldn’t be surprised to see demand dip this fall given how much negativity will surround this year’s campaigns. However, with so much momentum in the market and if supply also drops, I’m not confident that it will result in buyers paying less.

For those of you currently looking or planning to look outside of the Arlington/Alexandria markets hoping for an easier buying experience, I’m sorry to say that homes are moving quickly with multiple offers and favorable contingency terms (for sellers) all over Northern VA. Expect this level of activity/competition to last through May/June.

If you’d like to discuss the best buying or selling strategies in the current market, feel free to email me at Eli@EliResidential.com to schedule time to talk.

2020 Home Design Trends

Question: What changes are you seeing in design trends this year?

Answer: Every year I look forward to the Pantone Color of the Year selection (released annually since 2000) and this year is one of my personal favorites – Classic Blue. I’ve noticed blues showing up a lot more in homes lately, especially in kitchens (it makes for a beautiful cabinet color, in my opinion).

Pantone Color of the Year 2020 Classic Blue & Steve

But trends go well beyond colors so for an expert opinion on the latest design trends, I’d like to re-introduce Caroline Goree (caroline@madiganschuler.com), a Designer with a boutique Residential Interior Design Firm, Madigan Schuler, located in Alexandria Virginia, to provide insight into what trends we should expect to see in 2020.

In 2018, Caroline introduced us to one of my favorite design quotes from Matthew Frederick’s book 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, “Being nonspecific in an effort to appeal to everyone usually results in reaching no one.”

Take it away Caroline… 

Thank you, Eli. I am really excited for the trends we see happening in 2020 primarily because people are experimenting with color, textures and patterns much more than in the past few years. While those “safe” design decisions like all white kitchens aren’t necessarily going to go of style, I like seeing more personal flare and individuality come through. Below are some of my personal favorite trend hello’s and goodbye’s of 2020.

Goodbye One-Stop Shoppin’

Thanks to Restoration Hardware, the “all gray everything” trend was popular for the better part of the last 5+ years. Thankfully, that “one-stop shop” mindset is shifting to consumers wanting a more collected look.

Maybe that means a sofa from a known store, such as Restoration Hardware, mixed with vintage velvet club chairs found at Miss Pixies in Washington DC. Add in your grandmother’s fabulous antique chest for a coffee table (hard to believe you once referred to is as old “brown” furniture) and a natural fiber rug so your room has that layered, collected look.

Personally, I am thrilled the trend is moving towards an appreciation for a well curated space using unique items that are not all new and mass produced. Interior Designer, Nate Burkus, once said “Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love.”

Hello Square Tiles

Thanks to Chip and Joanna Gains (and 90% off the local flippers) subway tile is officially overused and seen in just about every kitchen or bathroom completed since 2015. While timeless (after all, it is named after the 3×6 tiles installed in 1904 in the New York Subway Station) we are ready to explore other shapes and textures.

My personal favorite, square tiles, offer a more unique look but keep the space simple and sleek. From matte concrete tiles in mudrooms, to hand painted terracotta tiles for kitchen backsplashes, many manufacturers are using this traditional shaped tile with an artistic or creative twist. If square tiles still feel a bit out of your comfort zone, try playing with the scale of rectangular tiles such as sizes 2×9 or 3×12. 

Goodbye Gray Walls

Walk into just about any house on the market in the last five years and you will notice one similarity – gray walls. Many Realtors, Interior Designers (including myself) and Homeowners had their go-to list of grays that would cover entire house interiors top to bottom.

With a new decade ahead of us it is time for a new paint color trend (finally).  White paint brings a sense of sophistication to a space, allowing the walls to highlight artwork, architecture and give a bright yet quiet background to your beautifully collected furniture (see topic one above).

From bright white to milky white and crisp white to creamy white, there is a white for everyone. If you are considering going with a white wall, it is important to keep in mind your trim and cabinetry colors. All whites are not the same so be sure to use samples and see how they blend with your existing paint colors. 

Hello Color and Florals!

Tired of seeing the same styles over and over again? Us too. For example, one of the patterns I have been ready to retire since 2015 is Geometrics. Thankfully, with this 2020 concept of originality and pushing the envelope, we are seeing people much more willing to experiment with color and patterns such as florals.

From Peacock Blue velvet sofa’s to floral fabric covering barstools, furniture is being used to express clients style and favorite colors. For years, many folks associated floral fabric with that Chintz Living Room sofa never to be sat on at an elder family member’s house. Not anymore! We encourage and welcome the new wave of florals as they add incredible interest and naturally create wonderful color schemes in a room.

Thank you, Caroline! I’ve been seeing a lot of these trends pop up lately myself so it’s pretty clear that homeowners and buyer tastes are shifting back to an older generation of design, with a more 21st century touch. Caroline and her team at Madigan Schuler are excellent design resources so feel free to reach out to Caroline at caroline@madiganschuler.com for advice on your own interior redesign or remodeling efforts.

The Real Story About 22202 Property Values (Amazon Zip Code), Part 2

Question: I have read articles about the 22202 zip code suggesting everything from extreme appreciation to homes now selling for pre-Amazon prices. Can you shed some light on what’s actually happening in that market?

Answer: A few weeks ago, I wrote part one, focusing on the performance of the 22202 (Amazon Zip Code) condo market so this week we’ll take a look at how the detached single-family market performed in the neighborhoods bordering Amazon HQ2.

One of the issues I mention in Part 1 is how much misinformation has been published elsewhere about price appreciation in 22202 and the Arlington/Alexandria markets.

This two-part column is one of my attempts to provide an accurate picture about what’s actually happening in our real estate market. The key takeaway is that the market performed very well (if you own, not if you’re a hopeful buyer) following the Amazon HQ2 announcement, but prices haven’t skyrocketed the way many articles would lead you to believe.

Market Make-up

The 22202 market offers a diverse supply of housing. This year, condos have sold from as little as $195,000 for a 500sqft studio to $1,250,000 for a 2,900sqft 3BR/3BA penthouse. The least expensive detached home sold for $630,000 to be torn down and the most expensive a 6BR/4.5BA for $1,600,000.

Homes in the area tend to be pretty old with most detached homes being built prior to the 1960s and only one condo building has delivered since 1990.

Of the 139 homes to sell in 2019, 78 were in condo buildings, 50 were detached homes, and 11 were townhouses.

22202 Detached Single-Family Performance

The tables below represent sales in 2018 and 2019 split between those that went under contract before and after Amazon’s HQ2 announcement on November 13 2018:

PeriodAvg Sold PriceAvg Sold to Org Ask PriceAvg Days on Market# SoldTax Assessed Value
Post-Amazon$995,739100.6%1353$829,742
Pre-Amazon$911,47097.6%4172$802,120

Like elsewhere in Arlington and the 22202 condo market, inventory levels took a big hit in 2019, dropping 33% from 75 sales in 2018 to 50 sales in 2019. Sales volume had ranged consistently between 69 and 76 sales since 2015.

The decline in sales certainly was not due to lack of demand, rather fewer properties hitting the market. This is evident from the sharp drop in average days on market (down 63%) and sharp increase in the average sold price to original asking price ratio (up 3%). In fact, the detached home market was so competitive that the average buyer paid over asking price.

Detached home prices in 22202 increased by an average of 9.2%, from $911k to $996k, and the median value increased by 8.5%, from $876k to $950k. Detached homes in the area vary so much from sale to sale that you can’t take the average or median price growth and apply that level of appreciation to all individual homes. When I dug into individual comparable sales pre and post Amazon announcement, I found that homes below ~$1M appreciated noticeably more than those above $1M, by about 12-15% and 5-8%, respectively.

Here are a couple of tables for those of you who want to get really far into the data. The first shows how the lower, middle, and upper quartiles changed between 2018 and 2019. The second shows how sales were distributed between different prices ranges.

Price RangeLow PriceHigh PriceAvg Price2018-2019 Increase
Pre-Amazon Lower 25%$485,000$746,888$669,784 
Pre-Amazon Middle 50%$753,000$1,049,000$869,592 
Pre-Amazon Upper 25%$1,049,000$1,537,250$1,226,846 
Post-Amazon Lower 25%$630,000$825,000$739,30810.4%
Post-Amazon Middle 50%$830,000$1,145,000$975,85212.2%
Post-Amazon Upper 25%$1,162,500$1,600,000$1,319,8227.6%
Price Range# Sold% of Sales
Post-Amazon53 
<$775k1018.9%
Middle2445.3%
>$1,125,0001935.8%
Pre-Amazon72 
<$775k2230.6%
Middle3650.0%
>$1,125,0001419.4%
22202 Tear-Down Sales

I also looked at how the Amazon announcement impacted the cost of homes being torn down (for new construction) and found that the average cost of buying a tear-down increased by 13.7% or 16.2%, depending on which data point you use. Note: I limited the data set to homes sitting on 5,000-10,000sqft lots and not all tear-down sales are entered into the MLS.

PeriodAvg Sold PriceAvg $/Sqft (lot size)# Sold
Post-Amazon$730,556$1159
Pre-Amazon$642,592$9914

I hope anybody living in or hoping to buy into the 22202 zip finds this data useful and the rest of you find it interesting! I’m going to start working on my 2019 Arlington housing market review and hope to have that published in the next few weeks.

If you ever want to meet/talk about the market or your plans to buy, sell, or invest in the DC Metro area, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

What’s Driving Arlington’s 2018 Condo Growth?

Question: Are there specific buildings or sub-markets in Arlington that were responsible for the jump in condo values in the first half of 2018?

Answer: The most interesting data point that came from last week’s mid-year real estate review was that, for the first time in years, condo prices appreciated significantly from the first half of 2017 (9.1% growth). I received a number of emails from readers asking if this growth occurred across the entire condo market or in specific locations or buildings so this week’s column takes a deeper dive into the 2018 mid-year data for condos in Arlington.

 

Growth and Demand Increase Across the Market

The good news for condo owners in Arlington is that appreciation and demand increased across all markets in the first half of 2018. In fact, 63 of the 79 measures for appreciation and demand improved (if you’re a homeowner/seller). To test the market, I looked at average price and three demand indicators (days on market, purchase price to asking price ratio, and number of sales) broken out by zip code, building age, and price range. The data compares pricing and demand trends in the first half of each year for all condos sold in Arlington. Cells highlighted in green indicate improvement (for homeowners/sellers) in that category for 2018.

 

All Eight Zip Codes Appreciated

Demand indicators supported the price growth, with most zip codes seeing a faster pace of sale and buyers negotiate less off original asking prices. For those tracking new construction in Arlington, only 11 of the 98 sales in 22209 were in Key & Nash and it’s important to note that builders do not enter all of their sales into the MLS, so a large percentage of those sales are missing from the data. Note that 22205 is not included because of the lack of volume.

 

 

Older Properties Surged

Many older buildings in Northern VA are struggling to recover from their peak pricing from 2005-2007, which has left many owners in a difficult financial position. The strong appreciation seen in condos built before the 1970s will be a much-needed relief for many and proves that Arlingtonians and investors are seeing value in older, less expensive condos compared to their newer, amenity-rich neighbors built in the last 20 years. Check out the huge drop in average days on market for condos built in the 1950s or earlier!

 

 

Higher Demand at Every Price Point

Demand picked up the most for less expensive condos, but every price range saw at least two demand indicators increase in the first half of 2018.

 

 

If you own a condo in Arlington and would like to take advantage of the recent appreciation of your property, feel free to email me at Eli@EliResidential.com to schedule some time to talk about your options.

 

Question: What is the role of Business Improvement Districts in Arlington?

Answer: The Business Improvement Districts (BID) of RosslynBallston and Crystal Citydeserve much of the credit for turning these neighborhoods from convenient places to work to lively, family-friendly places to live.

Funded primarily by businesses located in the neighborhoods they represent, BIDs are an important bridge between residents, businesses and local government. Homeowners located in or near any of these BIDs can thank their leadership teams for increasing the value of their homes.

 

As a long-time Rosslyn resident, I have watched as Mary-Claire Burick and her team at the Rosslyn BID have transformed Rosslyn over the last five years.

I reached out to her for an interview to answer some questions about the role of BIDs in the community and how residents can take advantage of their influence on local government and business investment. Thank you Mary-Claire!

What is the role of a BID, and what role does the Rosslyn BID play in the community?

Business Improvement Districts are nimble organizations that wear a lot of different hats. In Rosslyn, we work on urban planning, transportation and business and community engagement, just to name a few.

But I think one of the most important roles that we play is that of a convener who brings together the perspectives of various stakeholders in our neighborhood –including residents, businesses and county officials — to advance initiatives that will help our community continue to thrive.

We are in constant conversation with folks on the street, in our restaurants and in our business community to better understand not only what they love about Rosslyn but also what they want to see improved.

How does the Rosslyn BID engage with residents and visitors? 

As I mentioned, community engagement is one of our top priorities.

Probably our most visible presence on a daily basis is our Rosslyn Ambassadors Program. Our team is out on the street five days a week helping residents and visitors with directions and working to ensure our sidewalk and public areas are safe and clean. Be sure to say hello when you see them around the neighborhood in their purple shirts.

Our events are another important way that we connect and engage with area residents. In 2017, around 40,000 people attended more than 160 events that we hosted ranging from our popular Rosslyn Jazz Fest and Rosslyn Cinema series to lunchtime fitness sessions and pop-up concerts. Each one of these events represents a touch point for our team to engage with residents and employees in our region, and for interaction between these groups.

It’s that sense of community that these events help build that makes them so impactful.

What have been some of the BID’s most successful events?

Last year’s Rosslyn Jazz Fest was an incredible experience.

That event alone brought nearly 10,000 people to Gateway Park on one day, which was a record for us. The Rosslyn Cinema has long been a neighborhood favorite. Last summer, more than 20,000 people came out to catch their favorite movie. And it may surprise you, but Rosslyn is the largest pit stop for Bike to Work Day in all of D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

In 2018, we will continue to host these popular events, but are also introducing new activities and expanding others.

One example is the Rosslyn Farmers’ Market, which occurs weekly during the summer in Central Place Plaza. We’ve worked with FRESHFARM to introduce a new FRESHFARM Share program, similar to a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, to help bring more healthy food to Rosslyn residents and businesses.

I’d also like to point out that these events have a wider purpose and impact. They help bring thousands of visitors to Rosslyn who could one day be residents or tenants. And there’s an economic impact–restaurants and retail in Rosslyn usually see a boost in sales and exposure.

Some of the other local BIDs are Crystal City, Ballston and Georgetown. What are some of the most significant benefits of a community having a BID? Does a BID make sense for every community? 

From my perspective, there are a lot of benefits that a community can realize from having a BID. But simply having a BID alone isn’t enough. It’s important for all of the stakeholders to have a clear vision for what they want to accomplish, and to ensure a BID has the resources and buy-in to help realize that vision.

A BID with a distinct mission can be a leading driver of change for a community, serving as a liaison between government, businesses and residents. Residents, in particular, have a real opportunity to utilize BIDs to help create a viable, economically sustainable community that reflects their vision of the neighborhood.

How have new restaurants and retail spaces helped change Rosslyn? Are there any openings you are particularly excited about?

Restaurants and retail have been a critical part of Rosslyn’s transformation from a commercial area to a more vibrant, urban, mixed-use area. Between 2015 and 2017, 17 new restaurants opened in Rosslyn, adding to the more than 65 restaurants, cafés and markets within a ten-minute walk of the Rosslyn Metro. We’ve also seen more restaurants and bars staying open later, like Barley Mac, Quinn’s on the Corner and Continental.

This year, we’re looking forward to the continued evolution of Central Place, which is bringing multiple new restaurant offerings to the heart of Rosslyn. I think folks are going to be really excited to hear what they have in the pipeline.

We are also excited for the Central Place Observation Deck, opening this summer. This 12,000 square-foot-space will offer an unparalleled view of the Mall and the U.S. Capitol. Offering snacks and light fare, the Observation Deck will be the perfect place to bring out-of-town friends, a date or a colleague for an after work drink.

How can residents get involved with their local BID? 

Residents should utilize their local BIDs to advocate for what they would like to see in their community. Remember, a BID is there to serve the needs of a neighborhood’s residents as well as its businesses and visitors.

Residents can also get involved with their local BID by attending events, participating in community meetings and providing feedback on BID activities. Depending on an individual’s local BID, there may be opportunities to volunteer or be a community ambassador.

Question: We are buying a home in a few weeks and one of the closing costs is an optional $1,500 for Title Insurance. Do you recommend buying title insurance?

Answer: Yes, I do recommend buying Title Insurance. It’s a one-time fee that protects your ownership in what is likely the most valuable asset you own and you cannot decide to add Title Insurance in the future. However, like any form of insurance, it depends on your appetite for risk.

I’ve asked David Cartner, an attorney with Highland Title & Escrow, to provide a full explanation of the benefits of Title Insurance and some examples of when it would be used. Take it away David…

Do You Really Need Title Insurance?

As a real estate settlement attorney, buyers often ask me if they should purchase title insurance when buying a home. My response is that it depends on what level of risk the buyer is comfortable taking. A purchase of a house or a condominium is usually the biggest investment a person makes in their lifetime. If a buyer does not purchase title insurance, he/she risks losing the entirety of the investment.

Why, then, do buyers question purchasing title insurance when the risk of loss is so high? After all, no one seems to question the need for homeowners or rental insurance. I believe the reason is twofold: (1) buyers do not understand the benefits of purchasing it, and (2) title insurance is unlike other types of insurance in that it covers issues that have already happened.

Indeed, there is a long list of risks covered by title insurance, but basically what the buyer is hedging for are the unknown or hidden hazards that might jeopardize his or her ownership in the home. Hidden hazards may include:

  • Liens that were not revealed in title exam or made known to settlement agent prior to closing. Normally, a title exam reveals any liens on the property which need to be paid off and released prior to closing. If, however, the title examiner overlooked a judgment, tax, or mortgage lien on the property or failed to note it in the title exam, the buyer would be liable to pay the lien incurred by the previous owner.
  • Boundary line issues that an accurate survey would not reveal. For example, if a survey failed to note that a neighbor’s shed encroached on the purchaser’s property, title insurance would cover the cost of removing the shed and resolving any accompanying boundary line dispute.
  • Forgery or lack of authority. If there was a forged signature on the deed in the chain of title, or a person or corporation signed a deed without authority to do so, the transfer of ownership to the buyer would be in question.

 

  • An unknown heir of a previous owner came forth to claim ownership in the property.For example, suppose a seller passed away and his three children sold the house to a purchaser. If an unknown fourth child later came forth to claim his quarter ownership in the house, the purchaser’s title to the property is in jeopardy.
  • Instruments executed under an expired power of attorney.
  • Building permit violations. An enhanced version of title insurance is available that covers existing building permit violations. If a previous owner never obtained the appropriate building permits when remodeling a kitchen or bathroom or building a deck, enhanced title insurance would cover the cost of obtaining the appropriate permits. Note: the enhanced version is about 20% more expensive than the standard version and affords additional protection to the homeowner.
  • Mistakes in the public record at the county in which the property lies. Recently, Arlington decided to do a look back process on taxes for individuals that were exempt up to 20 years ago.  Arlington has audited the accounts to see if the exemption was applied correctly years ago. If not, the County is attempting to collect the back taxes from the current owner of the property.  At the time of the closing, there was no evidence of any taxes owed and a phone call to the County would not reveal any taxes owed. At Highland Title & Escrow, we have had two of these cases arise and luckily the owner purchased title insurance and the title insurance company will pay the back taxes.  

While lenders mandate that owners purchase lender’s title insurance (which only protects the lender’s interest in the property), homeowner’s title insurance is completely optional. It is a one-time fee that covers the owner for life.

Though there are certain factors that decrease the risk of an existing title defect, like having fewer previous owners of the house, a typical subdivided lot, or a recently constructed house, a buyer takes title to a house never knowing what title defect may already exist. In this respect, title insurance is unlike other types of insurance in which the purchaser can mitigate risk.

Contact David Cartner (703-760-3300 or dcartner@highlandtitle.com), an Arlington settlement attorney at Highland Title & Escrow, with further questions regarding title insurance or the real estate settlement process.

About David

David is an Attorney originally from Asheville, NC where he learned about the business from his parents who are both Real Estate Attorneys.

Prior to joining Highland Title & Escrow in 2013, he worked as the Managing Attorney of the District of Columbia division for Morris Hardwick and Schneider.  While there he tried many cases involving Foreclosure, Evictions, and Bankruptcy in front of the different courts in the District of Columbia.

David graduated, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning a B.A. in Public Policy specializing in Business and Government. He earned his J.D., from Campbell University, Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, graduating with a distinction in Business and Tax law.

David is admitted to practice law in the States of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York and the District of Columbia.

David currently resides in Arlington, VA with his wife, Melany, and their dog, Wheatley.

Question: Can you follow-up on last week’s column about condo/townhouse rentals with an analysis on the single-family home rental market in Arlington?

Answer: Thank you to ARLnow commenter Southy4Life for requesting that I follow-up last week’s analysis of the condo/townhouse rental market with a similar analysis of the single-family home (SFH) rental market.

The good news for those looking closely at the rental stats in Arlington is that the majority of SFH rentals are represented in the MLS data presented below, as opposed to a large percentage of condo/apartment rentals not represented in my data last week because most are handled outside of the MLS (commercial rentals, direct landlord-to-tenant).

Five Year Trends

Just like the condo rental market, there has been very little appreciation in rental rates in Arlington’s SFH home rates, until 2017, which saw a noticeable jump led by 22207, 22205 and 22203.

This doesn’t correlate to what we saw in the sales market from 2016 to 2017 so admittedly I don’t know why these three zip codes saw substantial rental growth, while the rest of the Arlington market remained relatively unchanged.

Below is a summary of the average cost of renting a SFH in each Arlington zip code over the last five years. 22206 and 22209 were removed for lack of SFH rental data points.

 

Bedroom Breakdown

Below is a table of all 3-5 bedroom SFH rentals in Arlington since 2016, broken out by bedroom count and zip code, with rentals in 22206 and 22209 removed for lack of data points.

Key Findings:

  • The most expensive home rented was a 7BR/7+BA home on Arlington Ridge Rd for $12,000/mon and the least expensive home rented was a 2BR/1BA home in Columbia Forest for $1,595/mon
  • It costs about 20% more to go from three bedrooms to four, 25% more to jump from four bedrooms to five
  • If you’re renting a SFH in Arlington, expect to take 5-6 weeks to find your tenant and be prepared to discount your rate by 2-3% from what you’re asking
  • For families looking to rent a home in some of Arlington’s top-rated schools, the 22205 zip code is a great value
  • 75% of SFH offered for rent allowed pets, but only 28 had fully fenced yards
  • On average SFH for rent were built in 1950 and the average lot size was just over 10,000sqft (1/4 acre)
  • Only 49 SFH homes offered for rent were built in the last ten years

 

Our team is happy to assist you with rentals, whether you’re a renter or landlord, so feel free to reach out if you need assistance with either! We are happy to put together more specific, personalized data tables for your as well.

Question: I am moving to Arlington from out of town and not yet ready to buy. I’ve heard the rental market is high in the DC area and wondering approximately how much it costs per bedroom to rent in Arlington.

Answer: I spend a lot of time in this column talking about buying and selling homes in Arlington, but about 54% of the County is renters, so as we head into the busiest rental months, I thought it’d be appropriate to share some helpful statistics on the cost of renting in Arlington.

For the most part, renters tend to be more focused on functional space to meet immediate needs, so I like the idea of using cost per bedroom on rentals more than I do for ownership.

The good news for renters is that developers have added thousands of new rental units over the last 5 years, particularly 1-2 bedroom units in the popular metro areas of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and Crystal/Pentagon City. While the cost of these newer units has increased, it’s kept the cost of renting condos and townhouses from owners pretty stable (or down).

The data I pulled below is primarily made up of non-commercial rental units (condos and townhouses owned by individuals) and restricted to units leased through the MLS (agent database), so only included a portion of the total rental activity in Arlington. I also excluded single family homes from the dataset.

Key Findings:

  • It costs about 40% more to rent a third bedroom than it does to rent a second bedroom
  • Rents have not gone up for one bedroom units, and have only increased about $100/month for two and three bedroom units
  • Most rental units are on the market for 6-7 weeks before being rented
  • There’s not nearly as much negotiating on rentals as there is purchases, with only about 1% or less negotiated off the asking price, on average
  • The least expensive rentals are in the 22204 zip code because there are not any walkable metro stations and the housing inventory tends to be substantially older
  • 22204 is the only zip code where the average rent of a two bedroom is under $2,000/mon and one of only two zip codes (22206) with an average rent under $3,000 for a three bedroom
  • 22209 is the most expensive zip code to rent by a wide margin due to the fact that it hosts two of the most expensive buildings in the DC Metro in Turnberry Tower and Waterview, as well as a host of other high-end buildings. It claims this top spot, despite also hosting one of the least expensive communities in Arlington, River Place.

 

 

One tip I’m happy to share with renters is that there’s rarely a better deal in the market than the deal you get being the first person to rent a unit in a new commercial rental building. The incentives they offer on the first lease usually include 1-2 months free rent, a period of free parking, and sometimes other fees discounted or removed (e.g. pet fee, move-in fee, etc). However, you should prepare for rents to increase substantially if you want to continue renting after your original lease expires.

Our team is happy to assist you with rentals, whether you’re a renter or landlord, so feel free to reach out if you need assistance with either!