Avoid Gaps In Your Condo Insurance Policy

Question: My condo association carries an expensive Master Insurance policy, but my lender is requiring that I purchase my own individual policy. What coverage do I gain from the individual policy that the master policy doesn’t include?

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

To explain common gaps between master policies and HO-6 (individual condo) policies, I’d like to re-introduce Andrew Schlaffer, Owner and President of ACO Insurance Group. Andrew is an expert in Master Insurance policies and has helped multiple local condo association’s reduce their cost and improve their coverage since writing a column on the topic last year. If you’d like to contact Andrew directly to review your association’s master policy, you can reach him at (703) 719-8008 or andrew@acoinsgrp.com.

Take it away Andrew…

Increasing Claims, Increasing Coverage Gaps

The condominium insurance marketplace is facing challenges that will impact homeowners in 2021. Water damage is leading this list of challenges—according to the Insurance Information Institute, about one-third of homeowner insurance losses are caused by water damage and freezing. The DMV is home to many aging condo buildings that struggle with mitigating water damage losses and their impact on insurance.

As water damage claims continue to rise and property damage costs increase, many insurance carriers are beginning to make changes to their coverage offerings that may increase your risk exposure.

Master Insurance vs Individual Insurance Policy

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

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

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

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

Review Your Dwelling Coverage

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

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

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

What Information to Share with Your Insurance Provider

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

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

My Recommendation for HO-6/Other Individual Policies

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

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

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

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

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

Should You Stage Your Home?

Question: Do you recommend staging for vacant homes?

Answer: When you stage a home, you are placing temporary furniture and accessories in a home while it is being marketed for sale. In most cases, I strongly encourage staging a home instead of leaving it empty.

The value of staging shows up in two critical parts of the selling/marketing process. It improves the quality of the photos by helping people understand the scale and purpose of a room. Better photos lead to more showings. Good staging also improves the way Buyers experience the home in-person during a showing. Better showings lead to better/more offers.

Figure 1: Great staging helped Buyers make sense of an otherwise large, open space at 3196 N Pollard St Arlington

In my opinion, the three main benefits to staging a home are:

  1. Add Life to Empty Homes: Walking into an empty house can be eerie and makes a home feel lifeless. Those are not feelings you want potential Buyers to have while walking through your home. Good staging can add energy and life to a vacant home.
  2. Help Rooms Feel Larger: This is counterintuitive, but most people perceive empty rooms as being smaller than they really are. I’ve experienced this on numerous occasions walking through empty rooms with Buyers who have trouble understanding how a bed or couch can fit into an empty room that is more than big enough for their furniture.
  3. Engage the Eye: Well staged properties keep Buyers engaged with room layout and functionality, but unstaged empty rooms allow Buyers to focus on flaws like paint scuffs, separating trim, poor lighting, and other things you’d prefer Buyers to overlook during their visit

You do not need to stage every room. In a larger townhouse or single-family home, that can get unnecessarily expensive. Prioritize the most important rooms like the living room, dining room, and primary bedrooms for the best return on investment. Accessorizing walls, countertops, and shelves also adds a lot of value.

Figure 2: Don’t forget about staging for outdoor spaces like this patio at 4645 4th Rd N Arlington

Good staging isn’t cheap, often ranging from ~$2,000-$10,00+ depending on the size of a home and type of staging furniture, but it should be looked at as an investment like anything else you do to prepare your home for sale like painting, cleaning, and landscaping. As a rule of thumb, I think that investing .25-.5% of the market value of a home generates a clear, strong return.

Cheap, thoughtless staging provides little or no value at all. Sticking a chair or two in the living room or simply laying a blow-up bed on the floor of a bedroom are not the same and provide little, if any, benefit.

If you intend on living in your home or leaving your existing furniture for the sale (photos and showings), consider “occupied” staging, whereby you hire a stager to help you maximize the use of your existing furniture and accessories. Just promise not to get offended if they recommend removing your favorite lime green shag carpet 

ies from the owner, with some add-ons from the Stager, in a great example of a successful Occupied Staging approach at 1276 N Wayne St #1230 Arlington

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

Condo Market Update & Breakdown

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

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

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

Arlington/DC Metro Condo Market Overview

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

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

Garden/Townhouse-Style vs Mid/High-Rise

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

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

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

Condo Market Performance by Bedroom Count

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

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

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

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

2020 Housing Market Review: Condos

Question: How did Arlington’s condo market perform in 2020?

Answer: I ended up writing a lot about the condo market during the second half of 2020 because of the historically high numbers of units listed for sale from July to November, falling demand, and falling market values (compared to the first half of the year). However, there were slightly positive signs in the last month of 2020 and early weeks of 2021 that the negative trends are reversing. Despite a 2nd half that looked very different from the previous three years, 2020 overall was still a strong market for condos in Arlington. Let’s take a look at how things played out…

Prices Up, Volume Down, Pace Mostly Unchanged…

The average and median price of condos increased by 4.2% and 6.3%, respectively, a strong performance but a bit short of the nearly 8% growth in 2019. I wouldn’t be surprised to see no appreciation or slightly negative appreciation in 2021 as a result of changing housing priorities from COVID.

Despite the late surge of condos listed for sale, the number of condos actually sold in 2020 dropped 8.3% from 2019 and 19.3% compared to 2018.

The speed of the market remained relatively unchanged, with average days on market staying put at 7 days and median days on market decreasing slightly from 19 days to 18.4 days. However, my preferred “speed” metric, the percentage of units selling within one week, dropped to 48% in 2020 from 52% in 2019, but still well above 2018’s 29%.

Six Interesting Charts

Below, I put together a series of charts to visualize how the Arlington condo market performed in 2020 and how that performance compares to the 2015-2019 markets.

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

Positive Signs in the Condo Market, Finally

Question: Can you provide an update on how the condo market is doing?

Answer: Arlington’s condo market began shifting in favor of buyers this summer, after two years of a very strong seller’s market, when historical numbers of condos began hitting the market at the same time demand subsided. I’ve written about these changes four times since (falling values, visualizing high inventory, first signs of a trend, and first signs of a shift).

November Might be a Turning Point

For the first time since June, we’ve seen a reduction in the Months of Supply (MoS) of Arlington condos. Months of Supply is a great measure of supply and demand (lower MoS = stronger market with higher demand and less inventory).

While the reduction in MoS is slight, it’s a positive sign nonetheless that the market is either closer to finding its level again or may soon show signs of strengthening. However, one month, particularly a winter month, is not enough to establish any real change, we will need to see what the next 3-6 months bear.

Figure 1

Multiple Key Indicators Show Positive Signs

My hope for a settling or strengthening of the condo market is not solely based on one metric, there are other key metrics that suggest November may be the first month of a settling or strengthening condo market.

Absorption Rate (Figure 2), a measure of demand, increased ever-so-slightly in November, the first increase since May, albeit still down nearly 68% from the December 2019 Absorption Rate.

The number of condos for sale during November decreased for the first time since May (Figure 3), albeit slightly. The better news, however, is that the decrease in total condo inventory doesn’t seem to be caused by frustrated sellers pulling their condos off the market, rather due to promising contract activity (Figure 4), which was up 41% year-over-year in November.

Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4

Looking Ahead, Eyes on March-May

Over the next few months, I’ll be looking closely at whether these trends (stronger demand, falling inventory) continue, find a level, or revert back to what we’ve seen since this summer. I’ll be particularly interested in what year-over-non-COVID-year numbers looks like and if we settle into normal spring activity for inventory and demand.

For example, while the charts above are positive indicators for the condo market, Figure 5 shows just how much inventory (new listings) is still coming onto the market, with November generating nearly 79% more condo listings in 2020 than in 2019, but only a 41% increase in contract activity.

Figure 5

I think that March-May 2021 are going to be very interesting months, statistically speaking, and will be excellent indicators of what the market might look like for the next few years, until the next major market event (e.g. Great Recession, Amazon HQ2, COVID). I think/hope that by then, we will also have a better understanding of how the Federal Government and private companies will address teleworking beyond COVID and thus whether commute time will be prioritized differently by buyers.

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

Condo Values Fall as Inventory Builds

Question: Have you seen a decrease in condo values with all of the inventory currently on the market?

Answer: Over the last few months, I’ve written about the shift in the condo market (links here and here and here), which began around July and can be attributed to a historical number of units listed for sale while demand simultaneously dropped due to COVID. Indicators such as Months of Supply, Absorption Rate, Days on Market, and Sold to Ask Price Ratios have shown a more favorable market for buyers for the last four months, but it takes longer to establish changes in pricing (need enough data).

It’s been my experience working in this market over the last few months that prices seem to be down about 2-5% in many sub-markets, compared to late 2019 and the first half of 2020 (after surging since 2018). However, I dug into the data a bit more to see how condos that went under contract after July 15 compare to the sales of condos that went under contract from Jan 1 – July 14 2020. I used July 15 because that is when I really start to see changes taking shape in the condo market.

One point I’d like to make prior to sharing the data findings is that the data is based on condos that have sold/closed and there are many condos still sitting on the market or under contract that won’t show up in this analysis. The market has also worsened (for sellers) each month since July, so properties that went under contract in July/August likely did better than those later on in the year. Therefore, it’s likely that as the units close that are currently struggling to sell, or just now coming to market, the data will get worse (larger decrease in values).

Data Summary

I chose to segment the market in a few different ways to get a sense of how different sub-markets are experiencing the condo shift. When comparing relatively small data sets (like we have here), the best conclusions can be drawn by analyzing market segments that have lot of similarities such as condos along the R-B Corridor built in the last 20 years or mid-1900s (older) buildings. Here are some highlights from the data sets I reviewed:

  • 1BR and 2BR condos along the R-B Corridor, built in the last 20 years, sold an average of 2.2% and 5.8% less, respectively, after mid-July. If you look at $/sqft, prices have dropped 1.1% and 3.6%, respectively. I believe this is the data set that most accurately reflects what’s happening in the condo market.
  • Older, less expensive condos across the County seem to have held onto their values better than newer, more expensive units. More expensive condos are closer in price to townhouses and I’ve seen more buyers favor lower-priced townhouses over higher-priced condos, as a result of COVID concerns. Buyers of less expensive condos don’t have many alternatives at that price point, other than renting.
  • The apparent appreciation of South Arlington since July 15 can be attributed to a different distribution of sales (higher volume of more expensive properties and lower follow of less expensive properties) than comparable units actually selling for more
  • The indicators (Sold to Ask, % Sold in <7 Days, and Days On) are what I find most interesting and a sign that the actual decrease in condo pricing isn’t fully reflected yet in the current data set:
    • Across every sub-market, including those where the average price didn’t drop, buyers negotiated significantly more off the original asking price. Earlier in the year, three sub-markets averaged buyers paying at least full price and since July 15 there were none.
    • The most interesting indicator is the huge drop in the percentage of units that go under contract within the first week.

Looking Forward

As I mentioned in the third paragraph, I expect future data sets for condos sold in the last quarter of 2020 and very early 2021 to show even larger decreases in values, relative to the first half of 2020. However, I think that with more positive news on COVID-19 vaccines, the start of the 2021 spring market, and more people returning to work (and realizing they value commuting convenience over extra space) I believe there’s a good chance the negative trends of the last 4-5 months will level off soon and begin to reverse by February/March.

I will continue to track trends in the Arlington condo market and provide transparency into what we’re experiencing. The townhouse and single-family home markets remain strong and I fully expect another appreciation cycle in 2021 for those sub-markets.

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

Housing Market Update, Condo Slide Continues

Question: Last month you wrote about troubling signs in the condo market. Do you see things leveling off or getting worse?

Answer: The trends I wrote about last month – shifting demand in single-family housing out west and troubling signs in the Arlington/DC condo market – continued through September with the developing changes in the condo market being the most noticeable. Let’s take a look at what we’re seeing in the housing market through September…

Arlington/DC Condo Inventory Piling Up

The number of condos listed for sale in Arlington during September (261) ranks as the 2nd most in any month over the last 10+ years, trailing a record-setting April 2016 volume (268) by just seven. The last time we had this much active condo inventory on the market in Arlington was September 2017 and you have to go back to September 2016 for a month with higher Months of Supply (measure of supply and demand).

Our neighbors in DC blew past all-time highs over the last 10+ years with 969 condos listed for sale, well above the record set this past July (863). Three of the four months with 750+ condo listings in DC have taken place in the last three months. You have to go back to June 2011 for a month with more active condo inventory in DC and July 2012 for a month with higher Months of Supply.

Fairfax and Loudoun County Condos Doing Fine/Better

While Fairfax and Loudoun County condo markets are seeing a similar late-season surge in listings, those markets are doing a better job of absorbing the inventory, so Months of Supply measures are still much more favorable for sellers with Fairfax County getting only slightly worse in 2020 and Loudoun County actually getting even more competitive.

Arlington Single-Family Market Stable

Arlington’s single-family market remains stable and is more reflective of the slight slowdown we expect around this time of the year, especially one month from an election. Single-family homes are still selling at peak prices, albeit sometimes with slightly higher days on market and fewer offers than earlier in the year.

We’re experiencing unusually high listing volume for this time of year, but that was expected given how little inventory was listed this spring/early summer. The number of single-family homes listed for sale in the 3rd Quarter of 2020 is up 42.5% over Q3 2019, but active listings are up just 2.1% for the same period, suggesting that the market has had no problems absorbing the extra inventory…and higher prices.

Sellers have not missed the memo that prices and demand are up in Arlington for single-family homes. September is the first month in 2020 that the median asking price of active single-family listings dropped below $1.5M.

I hope you’ve found this market overview interesting and/or helpful. 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. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

The Shifting Condo Market

Question: I’ve seen a lot more condos come to market and also some staying on market longer than before, is that part of a larger trend in the condo market?

Answer: In July, I predicted there would be a surge in housing inventory that was held off the market this spring because of COVID. That has proven to be moderately correct for single-family housing and very accurate for condos. The market has had no trouble absorbing the extra single-family housing, albeit with less competition than before, but the condo market has not absorbed the extra inventory and has undergone a significant shift in the last two months.

In short, listing volume for Arlington condos reached historically high levels in July and August, absorption (demand) is down, and months of supply is the highest it’s been since the fall of 2017.

Historically High Listing Volume

July (253 listings) and August (229 listings) had the 5th and 13th highest months for listing volume in the last ten years. Prior to this year, the top fifteen months for condo listing volume fell in April or May (peak demand offsets higher listing activity), with the exception of June 2015. This is the first time that the number of condos listed in July or August has ever exceeded 200.

Pre-Amazon HQ2 Demand

Since Amazon announced plans for HQ2 in November 2018, condo demand was through the roof with 15 straight months of more condos going under contract than listed for sale (over 1.0 in the chart below), beginning January 2019. Absorption levels, a strong indicator of demand, are now more reflective of 2016-2017 which brought very little real appreciation in the condo market.

Monitor Months of Supply

The Months of Supply metric combines inventory levels and rate of absorption (supply and demand). It measures how long it would take to sell out of existing inventory given the current pace of sales. Most housing economists say that ~6 months of supply is needed for a well-balanced housing market, a number we’ve never come close to in Arlington.

Given that it takes ~6 months of supply for a balanced market, Arlington is still very much a seller’s market, but nowhere close to what it’s been over the last two years. In August, Months of Supply exceeded 2.25, higher than it’s been since October 2017 (2.32). Compare that to December 2018 – March 2020 with an average of .67 (just over two weeks of supply) and high of .88, and it becomes clear why many buyers and sellers are experiencing a different market now than they were as recently as June.

Condo Market Stronger Across Northern VA

The rest of Northern VA also experienced an increase in condo supply in July and August, but not nearly to the extent of Arlington. Absorption (demand) has also remained pretty close to the strong numbers seen since January 2019. As a result, Months of Supply for the entire Northern VA condo market has increased slightly over the last two months and fits normal seasonal patterns.

What About Washington DC?

It’s worth noting that while the overall Northern VA condo market is performing well, the Washington DC condo market looks more like Arlington. In July and August, Month of Supply (2.73 and 2.80, respectively) reached the highest levels since October 2012 and were the first and third highest monthly listing volume over the last ten years. July (863 condo listings) is the first time in over a decade that more than 800 listings came to market. Previously, the record was 762 set in September 2019. There were 757 condos listed for sale in August.

What’s Next?

It’s still too early to know if/how prices will be affected, but it almost certainly means longer days on market and fewer multiple offer scenarios. The effect on pricing will likely depend on whether this is a short-term shift that will correct itself come Q1 2021 or a more long-term change in urban buying patterns. My money is on this being short-term and the market returning closer to its two-year averages by February or March 2021.

In the meantime, I think we’re in for a frustrating few months for many condo owners due to the combination of surging listing volume (increased supply), an upcoming Presidential election (fear of an unknown future), and uncertainty around the timing of a widely available COVID vaccine (less demand for multi-family/urban living).

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

Arlington Condo Mid-Year Real Estate Review

Question: How did Arlington’s real estate market perform in the first half of 2020?

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 condo market performed in the first half of 2020 using some awesome charts developed by my new partner, the wonderful Alli Torban. We took a similar look at single-family detached and townhouses last 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). I also removed sales of condos in 900 N Taylor St (The Jefferson), an age-restricted community.

Average and median price continued to rise, but not by nearly as much as last year. The total condos transacted in the first six months of 2020 dropped significantly to 484 from a previous 5-year low of 614, established in 2019.

The Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, made up of 2201, 22203, and 22209 is by far the busiest condo market in Arlington and 22204 offers the most affordable options, by a significant margin.

The volume of one- and two-bedroom condo sales was nearly equal during the first six months, but I’ve seen a shift over the last few years in buyer demand over the last few years towards two-bedrooms.

Studios/efficiencies (no separate bedroom) are very difficult to come by in Arlington with very few being delivered over the last 20 years. The Eclipse in Crystal City and Trafalgar Flats along Columbia Pike were notable for delivering an unusually high number of studios in the last 20 years.

The demand for larger condos with three-bedrooms has increased significantly over the last 3-5 years as owners of large homes have looked to downsize. However, the market is severely undersupplied with units that meet the needs of these buyers, with just 18 three-bedroom condos selling in the first half of the year.

One of the measures I like taking to gauge market competition is the percentage of condos going under contract within the first week and how much buyers are paying relative to the asking price within that window. An incredible 36% of condo contracts were accepted within the first week this year and the average buyer paid 1.5% more than the asking price to secure a home that just hit the market.

The key takeaways are that good condos sell very quickly and if you love a unit 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 condos remaining at six days and the average dropping to just two weeks.

I took a similar look at single-family detached and townhouses last week. If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

Pierce Condos Pre-Sales

Question: Do you know when Pierce condos sales will begin?

Answer: Penzance’s ambitious Pierce condo project, the high-end 104-unit building that is currently under construction in Rosslyn, began setting pre-sale appointments last week and taking their first deposits this week for condos expected to deliver in 2021. Their sales team set over 50 appointments during an invite-only event last week, indicating plenty of interest in the building…but will that interest turn into the 10% deposit needed to secure a unit in Northern VA’s most expensive building?

When 2000 Clarendon in Courthouse began sales there was no question the demand would be through the roof given the lack of condo supply and that pricing was within range of other condos in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor. However, Pierce is a different product and very different price point with over half of the units priced over $2M and many units going for $1,100-$1,200/sqft.

The most comparable building we have to this in Arlington is Turnberry Tower in Rosslyn (the blue glass building) which has had 85 sales in the last five years, 20 of which have been over $2M and only seven at $1,000/sqft or more. Pierce will need to sell 104 units in a lot less than five years with more than 50 units being $2M+.

Is the luxury buyer market in Arlington/Northern VA deep enough to support these sales? I’m looking forward to finding out.

What Will You Get?

The amenity package at Pierce includes a 24hr concierge staff, rooftop pool, two-level gym, and a rooftop club room and terrace.

Each unit is being designed with the same finishes and color package; there will not be any options/upgrades for buyers. The package includes Thermador and Bosch appliances, custom Snaidero cabinetry, hand-scrapped hickory floors, quartz countertops, and many units with direct-access elevators. There have been other high-end condo projects in the region that have taken a similar approach of not offering finish options for buyers, so there is some precedent.

Below are some renderings and finish samples courtesy of The Mayhood Company:

Feature Floorplans

I think there are a handful of units that will sell quickly. The ~$1M 1BR+den and 2BR units on lower floors, a few units with massive terraces, and premier units with unobstructed views of the Potomac River and Georgetown. I included some of those floorplans below courtesy of The Mayhood Company:

This is easily the most ambitious project in the Arlington pipeline and quite possibly all of Northern VA so I’ll be keeping a close eye on it and hope to bring you some updates over the next year or two on how sales are going.

For those of you interested in the building, a sales office is located a block away that include a partial model unit to show off what the kitchen and living space will look like. You can email me at Eli@EliResidential.com to schedule a visit or make a pre-sale appointment.