D.C. area housing market was weak in January


(Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

The Washington, D.C. region housing market had a sluggish start to the new year. Although January is typically a quiet month, the number of homes sold, the number of homes on the market and the median sale price tumbled in January compared to December, according to report released Monday by RealEstate Business Intelligence, a subsidiary of the Rockville-based multiple listing service MRIS.

Except for median sale price, several categories — sales, pending sales, active listings and new listings — were lower than their five-year average for the month. The 2,444 sales in January represented not only the fewest homes sold in two years, but were also down 32.9 percent compared with December and down 2.1 percent compared with January 2013.

“The weather has been hideous,” said Rick Hoffman, a regional vice president at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.  “The weekend weather has not been good. People aren’t listing their homes. They’ve got ice on their sidewalks. Brokers haven’t been able to hold open houses.”

Sales of single-family detached homes showed the largest decrease, falling 6.5 percent last month compared with January 2013. One reason for the decline is the scarcity of single-family homes on the market. Sales of townhouses were down 2.8 percent, while sales of condos rose 6.8 percent.

“We have a big challenge right now in that inventory is so low,” Hoffman said. “It’s like walking into the store. If there are only 10 things on the shelf as compared to 300, your sales are going to be down.”


Source: RealEstate Business Intelligence

The median sale price for the area has been rising steadily, and January marked the 24th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The median sale price for the D.C. region was $370,000 last month, up from $343,200 in January 2013 but down from $391,362 in December 2013.

Fairfax city and Prince George’s County had the biggest gains in median sale price, while Alexandria city, Falls Church city, Howard County and Frederick (Md.) County each saw a decrease in their median sale prices year-over-year. Falls Church city’s 36.3 percent drop was attributable less to a significant decline in property values than to the limited sample size (six sales), which tends to skew the mean.


Source: RealEstate Business Intelligence

The median sale price for a single-family detached home in the D.C. region was $450,000 last month, $49,500 higher than in January 2013. The median sale price for townhouse was $369,950 last month, $29,950 higher than in January 2013. The median sale price for a condo was $279,000 last month, $19,000 higher than in January 2013.

Although rising prices could put a damper on buyer enthusiasm, buyers should be encouraged by the 4,071 homes that came on the market in January — the most new listings in a month since October. Sluggish sales combined with more sellers listing their homes mean buyers should have more options.

“There’s always a little influx of inventory after the holidays because it’s something that has been shelved through the holidays,” Hoffman said. “I expect inventory to start climbing.”

Still, there aren’t a lot of homes for sale. The 6,745 active listings last month were down 2.9 percent from December but up 11.5 percent from January 2013. For the first time in two years, all property segments saw year-over-year gains in active listings in January. Condo listings showed the largest increase, rising 27.6 percent. Townhouse listings gained 25 percent, while single-family detached home listings edged up 1.8 percent.

Where to find the most and least expensive houses in the Washington D.C. region in 2013

Twitter: @KathyOrtonWP, @PostRealEstate

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Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market. Previously, she wrote for the Sports section. She came to The Washington Post in 1996 from the Los Angeles Daily News. She also worked at the Cincinnati Post. She is the author of the book, “Outside the Limelight: Basketball in the Ivy League.”
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