The Washington area housing market appears to be cooling, based on data from RealEstate Business Intelligence’s September housing market report.
The Washington market is still doing better than it was a year ago at this time, but it is not as robust as it was in August. Sales, pending contracts and median prices each declined from August to September.
However, although those indicators have fallen off, they are still better than they were in September 2011. In the case of median price, the number is the best it has been in September in five years.
“The fall market came early this year,” said Bonnie Casper, president of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors and a real estate agent with Long and Foster. “I’m not really sure [why it did]. But I think for whatever reason, it moved up a month. August was busier than normal. You think August is pretty dead. No, August wasn’t really dead. . . . In terms of how we look at the market, I think we’re looking at it as still being quite strong around here.”
What seems, in part, to be holding the market back — besides the usual seasonal slowdown — is lack of inventory. Active and new listings continue to shrink, with the number of active listings more than 6,000 below the 10-year average for September. The good news is this should keep prices stable even as demand slows going into the winter months.
Another likely factor is the election and potential fallout from sequestration.
“Right now, there’s an uncertainty about who is going to win the election, what’s going to happen, what’s the approach going to be, what’s the strategy going to be,” Casper said. “The uncertainty part of it is what is making people hesitate. . . . I think people are trying to sort through this. People are looking at Congress and saying to themselves, ‘What are they going to do [about sequestration]?’ ”
Sales in the Washington metro area in September dropped to 3,256, down nearly 20 percent from August, but up nearly 5 percent from September 2011. September’s median sales price fell to $360,000, a nearly 7 percent decrease from August when it was $385,000. September’s pending sales fell 6.4 percent from August to 4,195.
September’s active listings were up slightly from August (3.5 percent), but down nearly 36 percent from a year ago at this time. Number of days on the market remained unchanged from August (26), but was down from 44 in September 2011. Within the region, most jurisdictions had year-over-year median price gains. Falls Church led the way with a nearly 13 percent increase year-over-year. The District and Montgomery County each nearly gained 10 percent, while Arlington lost nearly 4 percent. RBIntel attributed Arlington’s drop in median sales price to the higher percentage of condo sales and a sharp drop in single-family detached home sales.
Median prices of townhomes gained the most, up nearly 11 percent across the region. Median prices of condos were up 8 percent and single-family detached homes rose 4.5 percent.
There are 1,723 active listings for townhomes in the area, the lowest September total on record. The 5,124 new listings are the fewest for a September since 2000.