The Washington Post

D.C. area housing market is having a disappointing spring

(Jim Watson/ AFP Getty Images)

Usually the busiest time of the year for home buying and selling, spring has been a disappointment for the D.C. region’s housing market.

Sluggish sales continued last month as buyers stayed away, according to data released Monday by RealEstate Business Intelligence, a subsidiary of MRIS, the Rockville-based multiple listing service.

Many real estate agents pointed to the harsh winter as the reason for lackluster sales in the first part of the year. But as the weather improved, sales did not. Only 3,883 homes were sold in the D.C. area in April, the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year declines. It seems factors other than weather have led to the slowdown.

Since the government shutdown in October, five of the past six months have shown year-over-year declines in home sales.

Pending sales – homes under contract but the deals have not closed – also declined year-over-year in April, the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year declines and an indication that the pace of sales isn’t picking up anytime soon.

The D.C. region’s listless numbers reflect a larger trend in the U.S. housing market. In testimony before Congress last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen seemed concerned about the housing recovery. “The recent flattening out in housing activity could prove more protracted than currently expected,” she told lawmakers.

Meanwhile, prices are rising, which should encourage more people to put their homes on the market but may price buyers out of their dream homes. The median price for homes sold in the D.C. region rose to $412,500 last month, a year-over-year increase of 3.1 percent and the highest price for the month of April since 2007. The median price for the area has shown year-over-year-over gains each of the past 27 months.

Prince George’s County had the largest growth in sale price year-over-year, rising to $216,000 last month from $185,000 in April 2013. The county’s 16.8 percent year-over-year increase for April was its 14th consecutive month of double-digit year-over-year percentage increases.

Although more homes were for sale last month compared to April 2013, a lack of inventory continues to hamper the market.

“We have a shortage of product. That’s our biggest problem right now,” said Donna Evers, broker and owner of Evers & Co., a local real estate agency. “If you want to look at everything that’s going on, what’s wrong with this market, it’s shortage of product.”

The 8,871 homes listed for sale last month was a 16.7 percent increase from March and a 24.5 percent increase from April 2013. Active listings have shown year-over-year increases each of the past seven months. However, total inventory is 23.3 percent below the five-year average for April and 34.2 percent below the 2007 peak.

Alexandria saw the biggest jump in supply. Active listings increased 53.1 percent last month compared to April 2013. The District’s inventory was flat compared to a year ago, with just a 2 percent increase in active inventory compared to April 2013.

Homes sold the fastest last month in Arlington County, which had a median days on market of nine. Prince George’s County had the longest median days on market, 21. The median days on market for the D.C. metro region in April was 13.

“There are some weak spots as you go out farther from downtown D.C., but the hot areas are still doing fine,” Evers said. “And really they would be doing monumentally well if we had more product. …  The reason we don’t have sellers is people are still afraid they won’t get the price they got at the peak of the market.”

For more housing news, follow @KathyOrtonWP and @PostRealEstate on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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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.



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