There has been recent good news nationally in the housing market. In May, home sales were stronger than they have been since spring of 2010 when homebuyers were taking advantage of the federal homebuyer tax credit, and pending home sales were at their highest level in two years. While foreclosures continue to be a problem in some markets and mortgages can still be hard to get for those without very good credit, the national sales figures point to a housing market that is beginning to stand on its own. This is good news for local communities across the country as we head into the summer months.
Data for the Washington metropolitan area also continue to show improvement in the region’s housing market. Sales were up region-wide four out of the last five months and pending sales — which are generally an indicator of future final sales — are also up.
According to RBIntel, across the Washington metropolitan area (which includes the District and 22 counties and cities in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia), there were nearly 6,700 homes sold in May, reflecting an increase of 14.8 percent over May 2011. The biggest increases in sales were in some of the region’s outer jurisdictions and in suburban Maryland, where the recovery has taken somewhat longer. For example, sales in Montgomery County were up 21.4 percent in May. In Loudoun County, sales were up 26.5 percent.
Strong pending sales figures suggest continued positive sales activity. Declining inventories and strong price appreciation may characterize the summer season. Local markets that have been slow to recover — particularly Prince George’s County — seem poised for a strong bounce over the next few months.
Lisa A. Sturtevant is an assistant research professor at George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis.