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A snapshot of Washington's early-spring housing market

It's getting competitive out there in the Washington-area housing market, according to real estate brokers and buyers. And February market statistics just reported from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, the local multiple listing service, back up their reports.

Shelly Murray, president of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors and a Weichert broker, said, "I'm seeing quite a few multiple offers. My agents (working with buyers through Weichert's Germantown office) are feeling that they're in competition most of the time with other agents."

Average time on the market has fallen dramatically from last year. Time on market fell most dramatically in Manassas Park, where it is down 79 percent. A home there spent only 22 days on the market, on average, in February, according to MRIS statistics. In Prince George's County, which still has the largest average time on the market, that statistic fell 28 percent from last year to 102 days. Here are the stats for other localities:

  • Alexandria, down 34 percent to 63 days
  • Arlington, down 32 percent to 61 days
  • District of Columbia, down 26 percent to 83 days
  • Fairfax County, down 52 percent to 54 days
  • Fauquier County, down 30 percent to 98 days
  • Frederick County, Md., down 45 percent to 88 days
  • Loudoun County, down 49 percent to 52 days
  • Montgomery County, down 33 percent to 79 days
  • Prince William Co., Manassas & Manassas Park, down 53 percent to 44 days
  • Stafford County, down 48 percent to 62 days.
  • Bucking the trend was the City of Falls Church, where time on market went up 20 percent to 76 days.

Average sale prices in all jurisdictions were at least 90 percent of the average list price in February. Prince William County ran highest in February, with homes selling for 97 percent of list price, on average. Prince George's and Stafford counties were the lowest, with homes fetching 91 percent of list price. Most of those percentages were in the 80s a year ago. JoAnne Darling, president-elect of the Prince George's County Association of Realtors said buyers and sellers alike are being more realistic about the price of homes now. "Multiple offers are reasonably common on competitively priced properties," she said.

Median sale prices in most jurisdictions were higher in February than a year ago. The shift could reflect a larger number of more-expensive homes being sold as well as the possibility that an individual home gained value. Here are the stats:

  • Alexandria, median sold price was up 33 percent
  • Arlington, up 4 percent
  • District of Columbia, down 6 percent
  • Fairfax County, up 12 percent
  • Fauquier County, up 3 percent
  • Frederick County, Md., down 4 percent
  • Loudoun County, up 16 percent
  • Montgomery County, up 5 percent
  • Prince George's County, down 16 percent
  • Prince William Co., Manassas, Manassas Park, up 27 percent
  • Stafford County, up 7 percent
There aren't enough listings to satisfy demand, especially among first-time buyers, several agents have told me, and anecdotal reports I'm hearing from buyers echo their reports. Donna Evers, owner/broker of Evers & Co. Real Estate in the District, said that even higher-priced homes are in limited supply. She said February's snowy weather pushed the spring market back by about two weeks, interfering with sellers' clean-up and repair work. "The good stuff is just not there," she said. "It will be coming on."

By Elizabeth Razzi  |  March 11, 2010; 5:33 PM ET
Categories:  Statistics , The economy , The market  
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We'll see what the spring brings. I think the high-priced market, let's say $1.25 million and up, will have a horrendous spring, with the smart money waiting to see just how bad the economy will get, and what impact increasing numbers of foreclosures will have. I see prices falling, falling, falling inside the beltway in VA and MD so far this year, so we'll see what happens.

Posted by: GovFlack | March 11, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

There are lies, damn lies, and MRIS statistics. I exaggerate, but at least two of the statistics cited need big fat asterisks taking the reader to explanatory footnotes.
"Average Time on the market"; MRIS tracks two "days on market" figures - DOMM stands for Days On Market, MLS# and DOMP stands for Days On Market, Property.
DOMM indicates the number of days a specific listing (with a specific MLS#) has been on the market. This will be tracked by the MLS#.
DOMP indicates the number of days a specific property has been on the market.
For a listing that actually goes to settlement, its DOMM records the number of days from being listed ACTIVE to the day its status is changed to one of the three categories for being under CONTRACT. If a property had been listed previously for 300 days and never sold, that won't show up in "average time on the market". Also skewing DOMM are listings that are entered solely for the purpose of having a record of the transaction in MRIS. These SOLD listings have a DOMM of zero days but become part of the average DOMM.

"Average sale prices in all jurisdictions were at least 90 percent of the average list price in February." .. To be accurate it should say the Last List Price. For example, of the 107 properties that sold in Alexandria City in February 50 of them had at least one price reduction before they got a contract. But the statistics available to the public don't track sold price compared to original list price.

"There aren't enough listings to satisfy demand" - There are at this moment 54,638 Active residential listings in MRIS. In February there were 5,687 Sold listings. In the same month, 4,776 listings Expired or were Withdrawn. To my fellow agents who don't have enough homes for your buyers, well, you are blessed.

And to end with a prognostication; when the federal tax credits end April 30, sales will drop steeply again, modified ever so slightly by military transfers into Summer.

Posted by: filmlab | March 12, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

So housing boom is back and market is on fresh legs .... NAR and Home builder lobby shouldn't be asking the Fed to keep buying mortgage back securities to hold down rates. Once these "new" buyers bankrupt the FHA and we have the second round of foreclosures and a fresh bailout of the FHA ... and housing is in free-fall *again*, then these free-market participants can cry for help.

Posted by: free_np | March 13, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

This says it all: "several agents have told me". Fat chance of any factual info from that source...

Posted by: andyinbethesda | March 13, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I wasn't going to bother to respond, but I hope your bosses take away your publishing priveledges. This is such hogwash - cherry-picking statistics and asking "several agents". If you asked several agents: "What color is my hair?" -- they would answer: "What color do you want it to be?"

Everybody in real estate is hurting - agents, brokers, mortgage companies, people who need to move and are upside-down on their mortgages. Article like this don't help anybody, and just raise false hopes.

People need to get real with the fact that the RE market is going to be really bad for several years out.

The old days of the "average" American thinking they should live like French nobility of the 18th century are just gone. It was a temporary, credit-built anomoly.


Silly article.

Posted by: wobbleman47 | March 13, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The yearly comparisons are basically useless at this point since the 2009 market was still on hold for the HomeBuyer Tax Credit and the financial markets were in turmoil.

As for the lack of supply, there's plenty of homes available if you include the bank-owned homes and preforeclosures that are readily available if you ask your realtor. In my zip code, I see a 10-month supply of homes if one includes all of the homes that are available.

Posted by: leshoro | March 14, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse


Great article. I can't believe the anger I hear in these comments. These people need to do a ride along with a realtor trying to get people into homes. There is a huge demand for move in ready homes right now.

Anyone who claims statistical cherry picking can go to MRIS and look at all the different stats they want and even those stats don't show just how difficult it is to find good homes for people in this market.

As for the tax credit, it may have a huge impact on the national housing market, but do you really think that people buying $800,000 homes in Mclean VA really care about $8000 tax credit? People are coming up with down payments again, big down payments. It's a new market, and a much healthier one.

Good job. It's not all doom and gloom out there.

Highest regards,
Justin Pierce

Posted by: JustinPierce1 | March 15, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

bo yah!!! Bring prices back to at least 2005!

Posted by: WhatBubble | March 15, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

JustinPierce1 asked " you really think that people buying $800,000 homes in McLean VA really care about $8000 tax credit?"

No, the 12 people who settled on homes in February, in McLean, with list prices $800K or higher may not care about the tax credit. On the other hand, none of them paid the list price, either, so maybe an $8,000 tax credit is real money, even in McLean. We'll find out in May.

Problem is, 4,470 (78.7%) of the 5,678 sales I mentioned previously had a sold price under $400K. Many potential buyers in this price range may abstain from purchasing without the tax incentive. Again, we'll find out in May.

Posted by: filmlab | March 15, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

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