The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and the Virginia Association of Realtors conducted an online survey of Virginia real estate agents in April to assess the state of the Commonwealth’s housing market. What they discovered is that many agents believe housing market conditions have improved, however, distressed properties continue to be a drag on the market.

Of the nearly 1,500 agents surveyed, close to 60 percent across the state said they felt that conditions were slightly or significantly better in the first quarter of 2012. Looking only at the northern region — which includes Alexandria as well as Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties — 63 percent of the agents were optimistic.

“The residential housing market has clearly not recovered fully,” Federal Reserve regional economist Andy Bauer said. “According to the survey respondents, a number of factors are still negatively impacting the market.” 

The report also stated that first-time homebuyers, likely driven by low mortgage rates, made up more than half of the buyers in the market. Perhaps because most buyers are purchasing their first home, almost two-thirds of the homes purchased in the northern region are in the mid- to lower-end price range. High-end sales made up less than 10 percent.

The realty agents, like many homebuyers, appear to be frustrated by the more stringent lending restrictions these days. Asked how often tight underwriting prevented sales, more than half of the northern region respondents said occasionally and 33 percent said frequently. Close to half of them said that their buyers occasionally had difficulty obtaining mortgage financing while a third said their buyers frequently had trouble.