Question: How do Arlington County school systems impact the market price of homes in Arlington? Which districts offer the most value based on quality of education and the cost of buying a home?

Answer: For most families, finding the right home in Northern Virginia is a delicate balance of budget, schools and commute, with the latter two having the biggest impact on market price. If you’ve chosen to put down roots in Arlington, I’ve put together some data on Arlington County Public School districts for middle school and high school that will help you understand how your school district selection will impact your budget.

The Data

Please note that the data below is not based on all homes sold within a given school district. It is a sampling of homes within a specific sub-market in an attempt to present an apples-to-apples comparison of the premium/discount buyers can expect when searching within each district, that can be applied to other sub-markets. For example, the average sold price for homes in the Jefferson+Wakefield district is far less than $1M, but within the chosen sub-market, it is just over $1M.

In order to compare homes within a relatively similar and popular sub-market, I have chosen to use sales dating back to Jan 1, 2014 for detached homes built within the last 20 years with at least four bedrooms, excluding distressed sales. This prevents sales of tear-downs/full renovation homes from throwing off the data and gives us a pretty clear picture of the relative cost differential by school district. Not every home listing is populated with school districts (I estimate that 5-10% is missing at least one school), so those sales are excluded from the data. That is why the total sales for just middle school and just high school data are slightly higher than middle and high school combined data, because some listings just had one of the two fields populated.

School Rankings

GS Rating = GreatSchools.org rating for each school. I thought this would be an interesting, objective way to compare relative value based on a 3rd party rating, which has a huge influence on buyers’ decisions. You may also want to check out Niche.com for some different rankings of our publics schools and where Arlington County is ranked as the #1 school district in the DC area and in Virginia or US News and World Report for national rankings of our high schools.

Data Summary

For those of you familiar with the Arlington County Public School system and its impact on home prices, most of this data falls in line with expectations. Here are some comments on the findings:

  • Williamsburg+Yorktown is the highest rated school district combination in Arlington and, unsurprisingly, the most expensive to buy into.
  • Kenmore+Wakefield is the lowest rated school district combination in Arlington, but the second least expensive to buy into. However, due to the relatively low number of sales in this sub-market, the data here is slightly misleading because 2/3 of the sales are new construction which have a substantial impact on average sold price. The low number of total sales is due to the limited number of homes sold that are built in the last 20 years, not the a reflection on the total number of homes sold.
  • The best bang for your buck is the Swanson+Yorktown combination, offering the lowest cost per rating point (GreatSchools)
  • Despite having the fourth highest combined rating score (GreatSchools), Jefferson+Washington Lee is the second most expensive district to buy into. Why? It serves the popular and expensive Lyon Park community.
  • For reference, here are the Arlington County Middle School and High Schoolboundary maps.

 

Once again, please remember that this is a limited data set meant to provide relative cost differential between school districts that can be applied across sub-markets. I chose to use this sub-market (described in Data section) because it offers, in my opinion, the cleanest results available. The sold prices within this sub-market are the most expensive in Arlington because it includes homes built in the last 20 years. Each district has numerous opportunities to buy detached homes at much lower prices, as well as townhouse and apartments for even less.

Which District Do You Think Offers The Most Value?

What do you think about this data? Even more importantly, for those of you who have children in Arlington County Public Schools, which districts do you think offer the most value for families, meaning, the best education relative to the cost of a house in that district?

Question: We installed an in-ground pool when we bought our house and now that we’re considering selling it, we’re wondering if it’s better to improve the condition of the pool or fill it in and replace it with more usable space.

Answer:

You Will Lose A Lot Of Buyers…

You will lose the majority of your buyer pool (pun intended) by offering your home for sale with a pool. With limited months of the year warm enough to use a pool, limited yard space, and high maintenance costs, most Arlington home buyers consider an in-ground pool a deal-breaker. You’ll see from the Fairfax County data that this is true for Northern Virginia, not just Arlington.

…But It May Not Matter In Arlington

This does not mean you should spends tens of thousands filling your pool in and covering it with new landscaping. Arlington has so few homes for sale with a pool that despite losing a large percentage of your potential buyers, you’re likely to benefit from the pool because it’s such a unique feature. Remember, it only takes one person/family to buy your home.

Arlington & Fairfax County Data

Since January 1 2012, only 29 detached homes have sold in Arlington with an in-ground pool, while during that same period, 1,548 homes in Fairfax County sold with an in-ground pool.

Arlington sellers with a pool fared well with an average of only 29.3 days on market, compared to about 50 days on market for all other detached homes. 18 of the 29 sales sold in 10 days or less.

On average, those 29 sales were 3 percent lower than the original asking price, with a county average during that period closer to 2.5 percent, but not everybody sold at a discount because 11 of the 29 sales sold for at or above the asking price.

Arlington has so few homes with in-ground pools, that we have to look to Fairfax County to gather some meaningful data:

 

During this time, detached homes spent an average of about 60 days on market and sold for about 97.5 percent of their original asking price.

As you can see from the table above, it took nearly 40 percent longer to sell a home with an in-ground pool and buyers negotiated an average of 3 percent more off of the original asking price. This supports the idea that most buyers in Northern Virginia don’t want a pool, but the lack of available inventory in Arlington offsets that and can be turned into a positive for sellers.

Take Notes From Fairfax, Timing Matters

The above table for Fairfax County also highlights that if you’re going to sell a home with a pool, you should do so within the spring market so your buyer has the immediate satisfaction of using it for a full season after they purchase.

Question: I live in a building with above average condo fees and am wondering what impact the condo fees will have when I decide to sell?

Answer:

On Average

The average condo fee for a one bedroom apartment in Arlington is $397/month and $530/month for a two bedroom unit. On average, owners pay 50 cents per square foot they own. Looking at my favorite sales indicators, days on market and sold price to original ask ratio, there is a direct correlation between higher condo fees and the number of days on market, as well as between higher condo fees and greater buyer discounts from the original asking price (see first and second data tables below).

Pricing Around Fees

When pricing your condo, you must factor in the monthly fees compared to condos in similar communities.  Since buyers manage their total monthly payment, along with the total sale price, consider that on a 30 year mortgage with a 4 percent interest rate, increasing the mortgage by $21,000 increasing the monthly payment by $100. Thus, as a simple rule of thumb, for every $100/month difference in condo fees on a comparable unit, there should be an adjustment of about $20,000 in market value.

Data Summaries

There’s a lot of important information hidden behind data on condo fees like building services/amenities and the inclusion or exclusion of utilities and/or cable and internet, but the data on condo fees in Arlington is valuable nonetheless.

The following data summary represents apartment-style condo sales in Arlington over the last four years, broken down by condo fee ranges. Of note is that as the fee and fee per square foot increases, so does the time it takes to sell and percentage discount buyers negotiate of the asking price.

Note that of the $1,000+ fee sales, one third are from Turnberry Tower, Arlington’s premier luxury building, and another 15 percent are from Crystal Gateway, a building with expansive floor plans and the largest amenity package of any community in Arlington.

 

The following table is a cross section of the above data set, limited to sales that closed from $250,000 to $500,000, thus presenting the data within a more comparable sub-market.

 

How much does a building’s age impact the condo fees?

Most people would say that older buildings have higher condo fees because they have higher maintenance and replacement costs. Let’s take a look at the data for one and two bedrooms sales, by the decade it the community was built.

Of note is that the buildings from the 1950s and earlier have the most limited (or non-existent) amenities and there seems to be a jump in fees per square foot in buildings as they reach the 20 year mark, but leveling off after that, in-line with my expectations because most major systems require expensive repairs or replacement around the 20-30 year mark.

 

In order to truly understand the impact of condo fees on your condo, it’s necessary to drill down a few more levels within your specific sub-market(s). If you’re interested in exploring condo fee data for your unit, feel free to email me at Eli@EliResidential.comand I’d be happy to provide you with a more customized data summary.

Question: Does the winter impact all housing types equally or do certain types of homes fare worse during the cold season?

Answer: I have always held the theory that suburban homes with yards, trees, and plant life are impacted more when leaves/plants die in November than homes without any private/nearby trees and plant life (e.g. condos). This week, I decided to test my hypothesis by comparing sales statistics between single family homes in the 22207 zip code, the area of Arlington with the most tree/plant growth, with the sales statistics for condos in the 22201 zip code, where tree canopy and plant growth isn’t a major factor for buyers.

For my hypothesis to hold true, we would see the usual increase in days on market and discounts from asking price during the colder months across both sets of data, but a higher variation from the mean for the single family homes.

Summary of the data set:

  • The data is broken down by properties listed in November – February and April – September because I wanted to target properties listed during leafy/bare months (note, I removed properties listed in March and October)
  • Single family sales in 22207 date back to 2010 to arrive at 882 data points
  • Condo sales in 22201 dates back to 2014 to arrive at 862 data points
  • I removed extremes including properties that took 200+ days to sell and properties that sold at a discount of 15% or more because these would suggest their difficulty selling had nothing to do with seasonality
  • I didn’t include new construction in the single family data
  • Single family lot size had to be at least two tenths of an acre

Split Findings

 

Using the two main data points of days on market and percent discount of sold price from original list price, the data suggests that my hypothesis is incorrect and all types of property are impacted similarly by seasonality, regardless of how much tree/plant growth there is on and near the property.

However, I also attempted to measure how sellers were pricing their homes during each time of year by calculating the percent difference between the original list price and previous year’s tax assessment. I figure that this is the most accurate way to gauge asking price relative to market price across a large set of data. Under this assumption, I drew a different conclusion that the only thing keeping seasonal sales of single-family homes with tree/plant growth consistent with condos is that sellers underpriced their homes from Nov-Feb (or overpriced Apr-Sept) whereas condo pricing remains slightly more consistent through out the year. In other words, if homes sold Nov-Feb, featuring tree/plant growth, were priced the same as they are during leafy months, there would be a sharper increase in days on market and larger discounts, proving my hypothesis correct.

Another factor in drawing any conclusions from these numbers is how much the housing supply varies by season. With substantially fewer homes listed during the colder months, homes on the market at that time face much less competition, thereby helping to offset the negative impact of bare trees/plants, colder temperatures, and less daylight. However, this also seems to impact all housing types equally.

Using Real Estate Data

Data like this can help buyers and sellers make more informed decisions, but you should be cautious of how much influence you allow it to have. Unlike other data-heavy industries like the stock market and marketing, localized real estate data is full of anomalies, missing data, and misrepresented data making it challenging to draw reliable conclusions and necessary for the person analyzing the data to understand the local market as well as the strengths/weaknesses of certain data elements. I’m clearly a proponent for incorporating customized data into real estate decisions when applicable, but for those of you in data-dependent industries, keep in mind that your weighting factor for real estate data should be less than you’re used to.

Question: How did Arlington real estate do in 2016?

Answer: Arlington continued its trend of stability and light growth in 2016 with 2,933 total transactions (just 39 more than 2015) and $1.87B in total sales volume (vs $1.85B last year). At an average net sold price (sold price less any seller credits) of $636,839, Arlington saw a price increase of .15%, while maintaining its 2015 market pace, with an average of 49 days on market per sale. The 22207 zip code continued its strong growth in 2016, cracking an average sold price of over $1M for the first time, due to the increasing number of expensive new homes replacing older teardowns.

Top Sales

  • At $3.7M, the most expensive sale of the year goes to a nearly 4,500sqft penthouse-level condo in Turnberry Tower
  • At $3,343,085 the most expensive single family home boasted over 7,000 sq ft in the premier Country Club Hills neighborhood
  • The most expensive sale in south Arlington (south of rt. 50) went to a 7,500 sq ft new home in Addison Heights (across from Crystal City) at $1,625,000

Macro Stats

I’ve charted some macro-level end-of-year stats below. Sold price is the net of the sold price less any seller credits. Days on market measures market pace (under 30 days is consider very fast) and can be seen as a leading indicator of future pricing shifts (lower days = higher demand). “Discount” shows how much homes sell for compared to the original list price (100% means buyer paid full price).

Note that the 22213 zip code has a substantially lower number of transactions (59 total) than any other zip code, so the YoY numbers are more easily influenced by a few outliers. The extreme days on market for 22209 can be attributed to the increasing difficulty of selling units at the River Place Cooperative and the naturally longer sales period for the many luxury condos buildings.

 

 

 

 

Arlington has experienced steady, stable growth since 2010, which is something to be happy about while we wrestle with historically high office vacancy rates post-BRAC. As I wrote in November, the upcoming Trump years could provide Arlington a long-awaited bump in growth. Commercial developers and leasing firms remain positive on the long-term outlook for our office market. In 2017, the residential real estate community will keep a close eye on how increasing interest rates will impact buyer demand… and I will continue to keep you updated on our local market!

I hope everybody had a great end to 2016 and is looking forward to a successful 2017. If you or anybody you know has plans to buy, sell, or rent this year, don’t hesitate to give me a call at (703) 539-2529 or email me at Eli@RealtyDCMetro.com.

Question: How’s the Arlington market doing halfway through the year?

Answer: The Arlington real estate market is very stable right now.

First half of 2016 vs first half of 2015:

Stable speed of sale: Average of 50 days on market this year vs 49 days last year

Stable sold price: Median/Average sold price of $558,000/$638,166 this year vs. $556,750/$639,546 last year. That’s a change of just .22% and -.22%.

No change to discounts: Buyers are netting an average of 2.2% discount off of the original list price, same as the first half of last year

Only nine more total sales: There were 1,412 closed sales in the first half of 2015. This year? 1,421.

Total sold value: Arlington has seen $906,833,434 in closed sales through June, only about $3.8M more than last year

Other interesting stats (first half of 2016):

An impressive 12.7% of sales were over $1,000,000

13.2% of homes were cash purchases and FHA loans continued to be an uncommon choice, representing only 3.7% of sales

34.2% of homes went under contract within 1-10 days of being listed and 6.2% were under contract the same day they were listed (a sign of pre-market sales). Only 19% of homes lasted more than three months on the market.

Compared to our neighbors (first half of 2016):

DC saw average days on market of 39 days and an 8.43% jump in total value of sold homes due to a 6.89% growth in total units sold, largely due to new housing units hitting the market.

Fairfax County saw sales slow by 3 days to 53 days on market, but saw an increase in units sold of 5.96%, with a slight increase in median and average sold price.

Montgomery County maintained a pace of 57 days on market and, like our other neighbors, saw a pop of 9.47% in number of units sold, with an increased median sold price of 1.25%, leading to a total increase of 11.46% in total value of units sold.

Looking Forward

While there are some areas with localized development plans like Rosslyn, Ballston, Columbia Pike, and Crystal/Pentagon City that offer a potential boost to the neighborhood real estate values, I expect the county to remain stable in the coming years. Concerned about a housing bubble? I’ll defer to the greatest investor of all time, Warren Buffett, who recently said at his 2016 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting that he doesn’t “see a nationwide bubble in real estate right now at all.” He also noted that now is still a great time to buy a home, but not as good as it was four years ago.

Readers: I’m hoping for some more questions! Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to address in a future column.

Question: I saw last week’s Washingtonian article that Ballston is a top 5 hottest neighborhood in the D.C. metro area with median price growth of 10%. Is the Ballston market really that hot?

There’s no doubt that Ballston has become a much more desirable place to live over the last few years and will continue that trend with the upcoming Ballston Quarterredevelopment of the Ballston Common (Mall), but the Washingtonian article is a good example of why it’s so difficult to produce really good data analysis on a local level, without being intimately familiar with the area. Some quick notes on the data they used:

  • They consider Ballston the 22203 zip code, which covers a lot of area most people wouldn’t consider Ballston and does not include areas north of the metro that are in Ballston, including many condo buildings like the Eastview, Westview, and The Berkeley.
  • They include sales from The Jefferson at 900 Taylor St, which is an anomaly in market research because it’s a senior living community, with a much different cost structure (sold prices are significantly lower). As a matter of fact, when I removed The Jefferson sales, the YoY median price growth in 22203 increased from the reported 10% to 18.4%.

So is this real growth? Are buyers that excited about the Mike Isabella restaurants and upcoming Ballston Quarter? Should owners in 22203 cash in immediately? Here’s where the growth came from:

  • Ballston Row Townhomes: Ballston Row is a community of new, high-end townhomes that sell from the high 700s to just over $1M. In 2014, these homes represented only 2.5% of recorded sales (7 of 281) versus 8% (23 of 289) in 2015, with an average sold price nearly $45k higher in 2015 to boot. This flood of high-end sales, averaging over $300,000 more than the rest of the 22203 market, had a significant impact on YoY median price growth.
  • Single Family/Detached Homes: Another area of growth was for single family/detached homes. Within the SFH sub-market there was YoY growth of 5.7%, which I believe is driven in large part from older homes being bought by developers for renovations or re-builds to meet the high demand for high-end homes in North Arlington.
  • (Not) Condos: As I mentioned earlier, the 22203 zip code leaves out a large number of key Ballston condo buildings, so this isn’t a good time to measure the YoY growth of Ballston condos, but within 22203, there was only .1% YoY growth within the condo market. I believe that a newer building like the Residences at Liberty Center will do quite well once Ballston Quarter is complete.

The answer to the question is “yes” Ballston is a hot market and there’s high demand in the luxury, high-end pricing market that has pushed the median sold price up, but the majority of home owners in 22203 shouldn’t expect to see double digit increases in their property value like the Washingtonian article suggests.

For buyers, this is a good reason to consider Ballston because most property values haven’t jumped too much and there’s large-scale development on the horizon that promises to boost the entire market once it’s established.

Do you think Ballston is the hottest market in Arlington? What about other neighborhoods like the eastern section of Columbia Pike, Rosslyn, and Crystal City?