Special to the Washington Post
Back in the spring of 2005—in the crazy days of the housing market—the average house took just 15 to 19 days to sell in Fairfax County. In fact, in all jurisdictions in the region, the average days on the market was under a month. (The average days on the market is calculated by MRIS as the difference between the current date (sold, expired, or withdrawn date) and the list date, excluding any off-market time.) The rapid pace of sales activity was a departure from long-term norms.
At the bottom of the housing market, the average days on the market edged up significantly regionwide. For example, in the first quarter of 2008, the average days on the market in Fairfax County was 122 days. Homebuyers were more cautious, credit was difficult to get, and sales activity was sluggish.
As the housing market has begun to recover, the average days on the market has fallen in many jurisdictions. Compared to the first quarter of 2008, the average days on the market in the first quarter of 2012 is much lower, by a substantial margin in some jurisdictions. For example, in Prince William county, the average house sold for 63 days, compared to an average of 131 days on the market in the first quarter of 2008.
Recent reporting has shown that the inventory of properties under $400,000 is hard to find in close-in locations, and that properties in this price range move quickly. In some places, these lower price properties are, in fact, staying on the market for far less time than more expensive houses. For example, in the first quarter of 2012, in the City of Alexandria, the average home was on the market 84 days. Homes priced under $400,000 stayed on the market just 71 days, on average.
The only jurisdiction where lower priced homes are on the market a longer time is actually in the District. This trend doesn’t suggest that lower priced homes are lingering in D.C.; rather, that despite the tough housing market in some places, there remains a substantial interest in higher priced homes in the District.
It is unlikely that we will see average days on the market as low as we saw in the height of the housing boom. But the average days on the market will continue to drop this spring. In some neighborhoods—North Arlington, Northwest D.C., Del Ray Alexandria—homes that are priced well are being snatched up within days of the first open house. Homes that are appropriately priced—those that are in line with comparables in the neighborhood—and homes that are in closer-in jurisdictions and neighborhoods close to transit will continue to move relatively quickly into the summer.
Lisa A. Sturtevant is an assistant research professor at George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis