Sales in the D.C. region’s housing market picked up for the first time in a year last month, a sign that home buyers may feel more confident heading into the new year.
For most of 2014, the D.C.-area real estate market was flat. Although there were pockets of robust activity and others of sluggish sales, in general, the market didn’t experience big gains or big losses. Instead, it just meandered along. This wasn’t a bad thing. Slow and steady works best in a recovery.
Still, the modest increase in sales last month was encouraging.
According to RealEstate Business Intelligence, a subsidiary of the Rockville-based multiple listing service MRIS, there were nearly 300 more homes sold last month than in December 2013, an 8 percent year-over-year increase. It was the first year-over-year increase in 2014. Although the total sales figure in 2014 was 6 percent below 2013, it was higher than the annual totals for every year from 2007 to 2012.
Pending sales – sales that are under contract but where the deal has not closed – also increased, jumping nearly 11 percent compared to December 2013. Pending sales are an early indicator of buyer activity. Until November, when year-over-year pending sales were up slightly, that metric had been negative dating back to November 2013.
The increase in sales could be attributed to the rise in inventory. Discouraged by the lack of selection, many would-be home buyers have been sitting on the sidelines. Now as more and more homes are being listed, sales have been rising.
There were 8,267 active listings at the end of December, 19.1 percent more than December 2013. New listings grew by 331 listings, a nearly 13 percent increase compared to December 2013.
The region’s median price of $408,000 last month was the highest December median price on record. For the year, the region’s median price was $405,750, the fifth year in a row the median price has risen. After soaring to $415,000 in 2007, the area’s median price stayed under $400,000 from 2008 to 2012, hitting a post-housing boom low of $331,500 in 2009. This is the second year in a row it topped $400,000 for the year.
Every jurisdiction saw its median price rise in 2014. Prince George’s County had the biggest increase, jumping 11.6 percent to $221,000 last year from $198,000 in 2013. Falls Church City rose 9.3 percent to $700,000 from $640,500 in 2013. Fairfax City also had a big gain, rising 7.7 percent to $475,000 from $441,000 in 2013.
The District, which had a median price of $513,250 last month, saw its median price reach nearly a half-million in 2014. The median price of $499,000 was up 5.1 percent from 2013.