State of the Arlington and Northern VA Housing Market

Question: How is the real estate market doing so far this year?

Answer: 2020 ended with a surging single-family and townhouse market, especially further west, from buyers looking for more house and yard space, but a struggling condo market from an unusually high volume of condo inventory for sale and tepid condo demand. So what have we seen in the first six weeks of the 2021 real estate  market?

Single-Family and Townhouse Prices Up

The single-family and townhouse market is appreciating even further above where prices settled in 2020, with more competition (double-digit multiple offers). Through deals I’ve been involved in and conversations with colleagues, my unofficial estimate is that many single-family homes and townhouses are selling for 5-10% more than 2020 prices. I’m seeing this type of appreciation at all different price points too.

Condo Market Better, Slow Improvement Expected

The condo market worsened monthly from about June 2020 – November 2020, but reversed course a bit in December and remained slightly improved in January. I see the condo market picking back up at a slow pace and likely to continue improving through the spring, as demand hopefully/probably picks up, but I don’t see a return to the pre-COVID condo market any time soon.

Let’s take a look at some key charts for Arlington and Northern VA (Fairfax and Loudoun County)…

Arlington Months of Supply

Months of Supply is one of my favorite metrics because it combines supply and demand. The lower the Months of Supply, the more favorable a market is for sellers. Housing economists say that a well-balanced market has about six months of supply.

Single-family homes in Arlington hit an all-time low for Months of Supply in December and January, coming in at just a touch over one month, while the condo market has settled into just under 2.5 months of supply, which is about average for Arlington condos, save the two years after the Amazon HQ2 announcement.

New Listing Volume in Arlington

The number of condos listed for sale in January remained high, coming in 66.7% higher than January 2020. The number of single-family homes listed for sale remained stable, with an increase of just 11.9% over January 2020.

Dramatic Shift in Fairfax and Loudoun

If you think buying a house in Arlington is difficult, just try buying a house in Fairfax or Loudoun County, where single-family Months of Supply has dropped below one month to 2-3 weeks! This represents a much bigger shift in market conditions than what we’ve experienced in Arlington, which has been more competitive for longer.

Northern VA Condo Supply

All three Northern VA counties charted below (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun) have seen a spike in condo supply over the last 6+ months, but condo absorption has actually increase by enough in Loudoun County to not only offset the increase supply, but cause Months of Supply to drop to 10+ year lows of two weeks. Arlington County and Fairfax County have gone the other direction, with significantly higher Months of Supply.

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

COVID Impact on Arlington’s Rental Market

Question: How has COVID impacted Arlington’s rental market?

Answer: Recent articles have shed light onto just how much COVID has hurt the apartment rental market in the DC Metro, including this article on rents dropping by 14% in Arlington and this article on rents in DC’s Class-A high-rise buildings dropping ~18%.

I have certainly experienced the difficult rental market in the last 10 months with clients who have struggled to find new tenants for their condos for months, even after significant price reductions. In some buildings, there are double-digit numbers of condos being offered for rent, with little interest.

I have also spoken to many condo owners who are turning to selling units after months of vacancy trying to rent them out, which is one of the reasons for last year’s explosion in condos listed for sale.

I took a look at last year’s rental market for apartments, townhouses, and single-family homes and compared it the previous four years to see how each sub-market performed. There’s a summary of key findings below and a detailed data table to follow.

Note that this only includes properties in Arlington that were rented through Bright MLS. Most commercial rental buildings do not use the MLS and not every homeowner with an investment property rents through the MLS, but the number of properties rented through the MLS is enough to make this statistically reliable data.

Key Findings

  • Condo rentals dropped in price for studios (-10.2%), one-bedrooms (-4%), and two-bedrooms (-1%). If you remove January and February (pre-COVID) listings, the price drops increase further. I suspect 2021 will see an even larger drop in rental prices because many owners are still trying to find a tenant.
  • The average time to rent a unit increased by 50% to two months and tenants negotiated significantly further below the asking price than ever before.
  • Two-bedroom units struggled, but not nearly as much as studios and one-bedrooms units, likely because the 2nd bedroom provides a much-needed home office.
  • COVID had the opposite effect on single-family and townhouse rentals with prices increasing to all-time highs, homes renting faster than ever before, and owners securing prices closer to their asking price than ever before.
  • Rentals of small two-and-three-bedroom houses and large four-bedroom townhouses were in the most demand, with average days on market just 3.5 weeks and some of the highest rental price to asking price ratios of any property type.
  • I expect single-family and townhouse rentals to have an even better 2021 (from the perspective of the homeowner) as people continue trying to get more space, avoid common living, and find buying those homes to be cost-prohibitive and/or too difficult (competitive).
Year ListedAvg RentAvg $/sqftAvg Rent $ to Ask $Avg Days on Market# Listed
Condo/Apartment
Studio
2016$1,409$3.0998.2%42113
2017$1,406$3.0298.7%45129
2018$1,434$3.2398.6%37123
2019$1,462$3.2598.5%31114
2020$1,313$3.0593.1%57146
One Bedroom
2016$1,783$2.3997.4%49553
2017$1,750$2.4497.5%58577
2018$1,886$2.5798.4%50572
2019$1,871$2.6398.1%36684
2020$1,797$2.4895.7%53579
Two Bedrooms
2016$2,519$2.2897.5%59494
2017$2,505$2.2897.3%63489
2018$2,605$2.3497.6%58471
2019$2,604$2.3797.8%46520
2020$2,576$2.3596.3%56469
Detached
Two Bedrooms
2016$2,339$1.9696.6%5658
2017$2,387$2.0097.0%4838
2018$2,435$2.0298.6%4054
2019$2,444$2.1896.8%4846
2020$2,456$2.1798.4%2759
Three Bedrooms
2016$3,030$1.7797.1%51177
2017$3,061$1.6997.5%51188
2018$3,108$1.8297.9%46172
2019$3,152$2.0797.1%35204
2020$3,299$2.1198.8%26182
Four Bedrooms
2016$3,518$1.5196.5%53128
2017$3,658$1.6297.9%46161
2018$3,665$1.7498.6%39149
2019$3,788$1.9296.9%41181
2020$3,883$1.9798.4%35155
Five Bedrooms
2016$4,528$1.2398.4%5645
2017$4,517$1.4598.1%4861
2018$4,553$1.5798.6%4153
2019$4,808$1.7697.2%4065
2020$4,873$1.7998.5%3563
Townhouse/Duplex
Two Bedrooms
2016$2,292$1.7697.7%58170
2017$2,342$1.7797.8%48163
2018$2,364$1.8998.3%39172
2019$2,390$2.0298.1%39213
2020$2,470$2.0898.2%29214
Three Bedrooms
2016$3,393$1.7997.4%60124
2017$3,395$1.8297.7%51156
2018$3,295$1.9198.5%43173
2019$3,378$2.0597.4%37173
2020$3,441$2.0697.1%34189
Four Bedrooms
2016$3,890$1.5698.3%4433
2017$4,051$1.7595.9%6530
2018$4,157$1.6898.6%5137
2019$4,090$1.9699.1%2739
2020$4,110$1.7199.1%2636

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

Market Values 18.2% Higher Than County Assessments

Question: How accurate are the County’s tax assessment when it comes to determining the market value of a home?

Answer: Arlington’s property tax rate will remain unchanged in 2021 at just over 1%, but many homeowners will pay more in property taxes because of higher assessed values from the County. For those with plans to sell in the near future, the rapid appreciation of Arlington real estate values is a good thing, but for those with no plans to sell, appreciation simply means a higher annual tax bill.

If you’re upset by recent increases in your home’s assessed value, just know that you’re most likely getting a significant break compared to your home’s actual market value. Homes that sold in 2020 sold for an average of 18.2% (14.9% median) more than their most recent assessed value by the County. Last year, the average difference was 14.2% and the year before it was just 7.6%.

If County assessments were representative of actual market values, the average Arlington homeowner would pay just over $1,100 more per year in property taxes. So don’t forget to send the Department of Real Estate Assessments a Christmas card this year for such generous valuations 

Only 5.9% of homes sold for less than their most recent assessed value. On the other end of the spectrum, 6% of homes sold for 38% or more over their most recent assessed value.

Let’s take a look at the data!

Zip Code/Property TypeDifference of Sold Price to Assessed ValueStandard Deviation of DifferenceAverage Difference in Dollars
2220115.0%19.9%$104,341
2220219.3%15.6%$106,849
2220316.8%17.8%$90,066
2220418.5%12.9%$79,353
2220522.1%28.4%$176,473
2220619.0%10.8%$80,432
2220721.5%32.4%$188,480
2220913.0%11.1%$65,674
2221323.1%40.8%$171,539
Condominium15.7%11.2%$61,394
Detached/Townhouse21.1%27.7%$169,877
Arlington Total18.2%21.0%$111,887

If you believe that the County’s assessment of your home’s value is too high, you have the right to appeal the assessed value, but that must be done by March 1. Here are the key steps in appealing your assessment:

  • Your first appeal with the Dept of Real Estate Assessments must be filed by March 1
  • Step 1: Call 703-228-3920 for information on how your assessment was determined
  • Step 2: File your appeal online here (First Level)
  • Step 3: An assessor will visit your home and you can provide relevant info to make your case
  • Step 4: If you’re not satisfied with the decision or have not received written notice by April 1, file your second appeal with the Board of Equalization online here (Second Level) by April 15
  • Step 5: If you’re not satisfied with the decision, your final option for appeal is with the Circuit Court, which will likely require you to hire an attorney

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

2020 Housing Market Review: Single-Family Homes

Question: How did Arlington’s single-family housing market perform in 2020?

Answer: Despite the pandemic, the single-family housing market produced strong growth locally and nationally, primarily due to interest rates setting record lows throughout the year and a sharp change in housing criteria due to ongoing work/school-from-home demands. While Arlington experienced strong growth, less expensive markets further from DC saw sharp increases in demand and explosive growth.

More Expensive…

In Arlington, the average and median price for a single-family home increased by 4.9% and 5.7%, respectively, after similar increases in 2019. The growth showed up in all ends of the market, including Arlington’s most expensive homes, with another record-shattering year for the number of $2M-$3M homes sold. Only 17% of single-family homes sold for less than $800,000 and about half of those were tear-downs or required major renovations.

Volume Still Down…

Despite a very slow rollout of homes for sale in the first half of the year due to lockdown measures and pandemic fears, market volume caught up quickly in the second half of the year, ending up with 13 more homes sold in 2020 than in 2019, but still ~10% lower than 2015-2018.

Faster Pace Sales…

Average and median Days on Market dropped for the 5th year in a row to 7 and 22.2 days, respectively, and the percentage of homes selling in the first week increased for the 5th year in a row, hitting the 50% mark in 2020. The average and median price for a home purchase within the first week on the market was 1.1% and 2% over the asking price, respectively. The takeaway? If you’re searching for a home, be prepared to act quickly and pay above the asking price for something new-to-market.

Six Interesting Charts

Below, I put together a series of charts to visualize how the Arlington housing 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.

Analyzing the Pace of Housing Inventory and Demand

Question: When should I expect more homes to be put on the market for sale?

Answer: 2020 was an unusual year for housing inventory because we saw so little inventory come out during the spring, when the pace of new listings peaks, and an explosion of listings, especially condos, from late summer through the holidays. Here’s a link to a column I wrote that visualizes how unusual 2020 was for housing inventory in Arlington. Even though my analysis in this column and previous columns focuses on Arlington, similar patterns show up and can be applied across the DC Metro.

It is much more likely that the pace of new listings will follow a more traditional pattern this year, with the number of homes listed for sale increasing steadily from now to the spring, peaking for about mid-March to mid-May, and then dropping steadily through the rest of the year, with a brief post-Labor Day spike.

Weekly Pace of Listings, by Housing Type

I’ve always shared and seen monthly breakdowns of listing inventory, so I thought it would be interesting to break it down a bit further into a weekly chart and see if there’s a noticeable difference in the seasonal pace of new listings of single-family homes/townhouses and condos.

The following chart does just that and pulls data from the five years spanning 2015-2019 (I threw out 2020 because it’s an anomaly). The weekly percentages represent that week’s share of total annual listings. Note that the data for the first and last weeks of the year aren’t always full weeks because of how Excel calculates weeks.

As it turns out, the pace of listing inventory for single-family homes/townhouses and condos is nearly identical throughout the year, aside from a slightly higher pace for SFH/TH in the middle of the spring and a slightly lower pace for SFH/TH during the dog days of summer.

What can buyers looking for a home in 2021 take away from this chart? You can expect a significant increase in listings beginning around mid-February, buckle-up for the most options in April and May, plan your vacations in July and August, look-out for the post-Labor Day surge, and hopefully you’ve found your dream home by the holidays!

Weekly Pace of Listings, by Year

The pace of new listings remains pretty consistent year-after-year, as shown by the chart below. There were only a handful of weeks with unusually low listing activity, compared to previous years. I’m guessing there was major weather activity during those weeks that caused some homeowners to delay or accelerate their listings by a week or two to avoid the drag of bad weather.

The consistency you see in the five-year chart below is also reflected in longer (ten and fifteen year) charts, but those get a little too messy for display.

Weekly Pace of Listings and Contracts

The pace of listing inventory and contract activity is highly correlated. The “chicken or the egg” question is whether more/less listing activity drives more/less contract activity (demand) or does demand dictate listing activity or do buyers and sellers just have similar patterns of behavior and thus the pace of supply and demand naturally correlate?

I think that it’s mostly due to number three, a natural correlation of behavior patterns that cause the pace of supply and demand to move in tandem. This is also supported by data like the new-listing-to-new-pending ratios not being very seasonal.

Using the chart below, one could even make the argument that the best time to list a property for sale is the last 2-3 months of the year, when the pace of contract activity (demand) consistently exceeds new listings (competition). However, I’ve analyzed “success metrics” like days on market and sale-to-ask-price ratio based on the month a property is listed and overwhelmingly found that February-May/June produce the most favorable results for sellers.

I hope these charts were interesting and helpful to you! If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

Deep Dive into Arlington’s Townhouse Market

Question: I need more living space and single-family homes are out of my budget, so I’ve been searching for townhouses in Arlington, but finding that the options are limited. Can you provide some guidance on what the townhouse market in Arlington looks like?

Answer: I spend a lot of time digging into the condo and single-family home markets, but not much time on the townhouse/duplex market. Why? Because townhouses and duplexes make up such a small part of our housing inventory. According to this Missing Middle Study, townhouses and duplexes make up just 5.9% of Arlington’s housing inventory (3.7% are townhouses).

Fortunately (for some), we’ve recently had an unusual surge in new townhouse developments hit the market including:

  • Arlington Heights: 27 townhouses developed by NV Homes, walking distance to the East Falls Church Metro, ranging in price from about $1.1M-$1.4M
  • Trenton Square: 19 townhouses developed by Madison Homes, near the intersection of Rt 50 (north side) and Glebe and a short distance to Ballston, starting at around $1M
  • Morrison Hill: 17 townhouses developed by Beazer Homes, near the intersection of Columbia Pike and George Mason (across from the new Harris Teeter), ranging in price from about $800k-$900k+
  • Towns of 24th: 8 townhouses developed by Evergreene Homes, in the Nauck neighborhood near the intersection of 395 and Glebe, starting in the mid-$800s
  • Park Nelson: 3 townhouses developed by District Line Development, in the Nauck neighborhood, ranging from $900k to $935k.
  • Townes at South Glebe: 16 townhouses across two sites developed by Christopher Companies, off of S Glebe between Columbia Pike and Shirlington, with prices starting in the upper $800s

Explanation of Data

For the data below, I looked at sales of townhouse and duplex properties over the last five years (except the last chart). I decided to separate these properties into ownership type: Condominium and Fee Simple.

Condominium ownership is generally used in multi-family buildings (apartment-style), but was popular in many of South Arlington’s townhouse communities in the mid 1900s. In condominium ownership, the HOA is generally responsible for what’s outside the walls of the home (roof, fencing, some plumbing, etc) and HOA fees are therefore (significantly) higher.

Fee Simple ownership means that you own the entire structure and the land your home sits on. The HOA fees are usually much lower because there’s less common ownership.

Over the last five years, we’ve had a nearly 50/50 split between condo and fee simple townhouse/duplex sales.

5-Year Townhouse Market Performance

Unsurprisingly, the townhouse/duplex market has followed the same general trends as the rest of the housing market, with a strong 2018, followed by a white hot 2019 and 2020, where the average townhouse/duplex sold for more than the asking price and 60% or more of homes listed sold within the first week.

Here are a few highlights from the data below:

  • There are a few ways of looking at appreciation here, but overall, the data suggests the townhouse/duplex market has appreciated ~20% in the last five years, with most of that coming in the last two years
  • The apparent drop in market value, by average sold price, of Fee Simple in 2019 is a misrepresentation of the market and due to the difference in the distribution of sales (more inexpensive/fewer expensive listings), the $/sqft tells a more accurate story for 2018-2019 Fee Simple pricing
  • The ~10% appreciation of the Condominium townhouse/duplex market (smaller, older, and less expensive than the Fee Simple market) in 2020 is likely due to buyer demand shifting away from similarly priced apartment-style condos in buildings towards private entry townhouse/duplex living with easier access to outdoor space (COVID related)
  • While quite different in size, price, age, and HOA fees, the Condominium and Fee Simple styles of townhouse/duplex ownership generally move in close parallel
Year Sold / Ownership TypeAvg Sold PriceAvg $/sqftAvg Sold to Org Ask $% Sold <7 days# Sold
2016$587,687$34999.0%39%441
Condominium$473,288$33398.8%38%260
Fee Simple$752,016$38199.4%42%181
2017$617,917$34599.1%40%558
Condominium$486,161$33399.4%43%313
Fee Simple$786,243$36798.8%36%245
2018$632,371$36799.2%45%533
Condominium$501,229$35899.3%47%292
Fee Simple$791,265$38199.2%44%241
2019$642,569$413101.0%60%481
Condominium$502,037$385101.4%63%220
Fee Simple$761,025$436100.7%57%261
2020$703,644$435100.4%62%561
Condominium$552,263$416100.8%61%267
Fee Simple$841,123$453100.1%63%294

What to Expect from Townhouse/Duplex Inventory

Below is a chart showing what your average Condominium and Fee Simple townhouse/duplex has offered buyers over the last five years of sales. While Fee Simple homes are roughly 43% larger, with an extra bedroom/bathroom, and about 25 years newer (likely to have a more open floor plan, larger bathrooms, and larger closets) the average Fee Simple home in 2020 was about $290,000 more expensive.

Ownership TypeAvg BedroomsAvg Full BathsAvg Half BathsAvg Total SqftAvg Year Built# Sold
Condominium2.21.90.51,41819591352
Fee Simple3.02.51.02,02519841222

Sales Since 2019, by Decade Built

I also thought it would be interesting to compare what inventory looks like based on the decade it was built. The following table details what you can expect to find in townhouse/duplex inventory by decade built, based on sales since 2019.

Below are a few highlights from the data:

  • There are three “generations” of townhouse/duplex inventory: 1930s-1950s, 1960s-1980s, and 1990s-current. In each “generation” the size of homes being built increased significantly.
  • The oldest, least expensive homes sell the fastest, with an incredible 71% of 1930s townhouses/duplexes selling within one week on market. On the flip side, the newest, most expensive inventory can take a little longer to sell, with less than 50% of these homes selling within one week. However, even at 40% and 47%, that is still a fast pace for any market.
  • Of the 1,012 townhouse/duplex homes sold since 2019, 279 (27.6%) had an attached garage. On average, a townhouse/duplex with a garage sold for just over $967,000 and 77% of these homes were built in the 1990s-2010s. 75% of homes with a garage had a two-car garage, representing only about 20% of total townhouse/duplex sales and requiring an average purchase price just over $1M.
Decade BuiltAvg Sold Price% Sold <7 daysAvg Total SqftAvg BRAvg Full BathAvg Half Bath# Sold
1930s$451,59371%1,0181.91.30.4129
1940s$535,77961%1,3612.21.90.1301
1950s$441,07154%1,1172.51.40.654
1960s$685,41760%1,8713.22.21.330
1970s$697,34163%1,9532.92.31.283
1980s$690,40867%1,6182.62.31.1198
1990s$966,94467%2,1283.12.61.399
2000s$1,057,05747%2,5603.22.61.260
2010s$979,36540%2,2183.53.21.188

For those of you exploring the purchase or sale of a townhouse/duplex in Arlington, I hope this information was helpful! If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

10-Year Real Estate Appreciation in Arlington (Interactive Chart)

Question: Do you have any data available on how Arlington real estate has performed over the last ten years?

Answer: A lot has changed in Arlington since 2010. We’re less reliant on the Federal Government for jobs, you can find something to do after 6PM outside of Clarendon, and $1,000,000 definitely doesn’t go as far as it used to. BUT we still don’t have a Rosslyn-Georgetown Gondola or a boathouse; maybe in 2030…

I thought it would be cool to create an interactive chart for everybody to play around with to show how real estate values in Arlington and different Arlington sub-markets have changed from 2010 to 2020. Click on the image below to get to a page on my website that will allow you to see 2010 vs 2020 price changes based on things like zip code, bedroom count, new builds/resale, and more.

Now stop reading and go vote if you haven’t already!

Single-Family Demand Shifting From City to Suburb

Question: Have you seen a shift in single-family home preferences away from DC/Arlington further out into Northern VA?

Answer: Last week, I wrote about a clear shift in Arlington’s (and DC’s) condo market as historically high volumes of inventory have come to market and demand has tapered off. I received some follow-up questions about how the single-family market compares so this week we’ll take a look at some of the trends in single-family detached (SFD) homes in DC, Arlington, Fairfax County, and Loudon County.

Across all markets, demand and competition for SFD homes is high, but there is a clear shift in preferences for SFD housing further away from the city that we’ve never seen before. Both Fairfax County and Loudon County have reached all-time highs in absorption and all-time low months of supply.

Suburban Absorption Rate Sky-Rockets

The absorption rate, a strong metric for demand, has almost always been higher in DC and Arlington than in Fairfax and Loudon Counties. An absorption rate of 1.0 equal one home under contract for every home listed for sale and great than 1.0 means homes are going off the market faster than they’re being put in the market.

The first chart shows a dramatic increase in the absorption rate in Fairfax and Loudon Counties since June, far outpacing the DC and Arlington markets. Loudon County, the furthest/least densely populated of the four markets was on fire in August, with an already high absorption rate increasing nearly 50% over July.

Check out the difference between the Arlington County and Loudon County 10-year Absorption Rate in the second and third charts below.

Listing Volume Up Seasonally

One of the trends that stood out in last week’s condo analysis is the historically high volume of listings that came to market in July and August, ranking among the highest of any month in the last 10+ years. While the volume of SFD listings is up in July and August compared to past summer months, volume is still well below peak spring listing volume.

The year-over-year change in SFD listing volume in Arlington for July and August is pretty extreme (see second chart below) simply because of how low volume was in 2019 due to the Amazon HQ2 announcement, but the numbers still fall well below a normal spring market.

Historically Low Months of Supply in Suburbs

Months of Supply, a great supply/demand metric, is something I watch closely to predict price movement. The lower the Months of Supply, the more upwards pressure there is on prices.

Months of Supply for SFD homes in Fairfax and Loudon Counties has blown through 10+ year historical lows (first and second charts) and shows no sign of slowing down (prices likely rising rapidly), while Months of Supply has tapered off and even increased slightly in Arlington (third chart), a sign that prices might be stabilizing. Months of Supply in Arlington is still way too low to create a buyer’s market where prices might start dropping.

I hope you’ve found this analysis 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.

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.

Impact of New Homes on Housing Prices

Question: How much of Arlington’s high housing prices are attributed to new homes?

Answer: So far this year, the average sold price of a single-family detached (SFD) home in Arlington is $1,146,000, but if you remove the sales of new homes, which are averaging $1,810,000 in 2020, the average price for a SFD home in Arlington drops 7.4% to $1,060,000. Since 2015, the average price of a new SFD home in Arlington has increased by 21.6%, while the average price of resale homes has increase 25.3%.

Important note: I removed one sale from the 2015-2020 sales data; a January 2020 sale of 409/411 Chain Bridge Rd for $45M, because it is such an extreme anomaly in Arlington real estate data that it skews everything else too high. This is important to understand because most likely in other assessments of Arlington real estate data you see, this data point will be included and it will make it seem like the average sale price in Arlington, especially 22207, has increased much more than it actually has.

New Home Prices vs Resale Prices

The charts below compare the annual change in the average price of a new SFD home and a resale SFD home. The first chart shows all Arlington SFD sales and the second chart is just for the 22207 zip code which accounts for 54% of all new SFD home sales since 2015.

I was a little surprised by how uncorrelated average prices were between new and resale homes some years, I would have expected a strong linkage.

One data point that stands out is the huge jump in new home prices from 2017 to 2018, which seems to be tied to a significant drop in the number of transactions (lower supply) in 2018. It highlights just how sensitive the new home market is to supply swings and I wonder if that forecasts less growth in the future as more homes built in the last 5-8 years come up for resale, competing with similar new homes. I also wonder if a pause in buying by builders in the first half of this year may lead to a material shortage of new homes in 2021 and drive prices up for new homes selling next year.

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