Eager buyers and motivated sellers have jump-started the D.C. region’s housing market this year.
April’s housing data, released Monday by RealEstate Business Intelligence, a subsidiary of MRIS, shows the trend of higher sales, greater inventory and modest price increases has continued through the first four months of the year.
Bonnie Casper, a real estate agent with Long and Foster and president-elect of the Maryland Association of Realtors, says the signs point to a healthy market.
“What’s happening is you have happy sellers and happy buyers,” Casper said. “A lopsided market is not a healthy market. If the seller is happy but the buyer is unhappy, that’s not good. I want to know that the people who are buying and selling are happy, that they don’t feel like they really got taken, one side or the other.”
Poor wage and job growth have been blamed for holding back the market, and despite Friday’s optimistic employment numbers, the economy really hasn’t taken off. Yet, D.C. area home buyers and sellers appear to have more confidence than they did a year ago.
“The working public is thinking [the economy] is pretty solid,” Casper said. “They don’t have a sense that they’re about to lose their job. They’re thinking, ‘If we want to upsize, downsize, right-size, whatever, now is the time to do it.’”
Casper pointed to changes she’s seen recently. A couple she has been speaking with for a couple years finally e-mailed her the other day to say they are ready to start looking. Colleagues in her office are reporting 70 groups of buyers going to a single open house.
The numbers bear out her anecdotes. Sales climbed to 4,268 last month, their highest total for the month of April since 2010 and a nearly 10 percent increase over April 2014. The surge in sales was seen in all property types. Single-family detached houses had an 11.5 percent year-over-year increase. Townhouses had a 10.1 percent year-over-year increase, and condos had a 7.3 percent year-over-year increase.
Sales are expected to continue at a brisk pace. Pending sales – homes under contract but the deals haven’t closed – rose for the sixth month in a row, climbing to a height not seen since July 2005. Led by townhouses and single-family homes, the number of new contracts last month exceeded the five-year average and the 10-year average for the month of April, increasing nearly 10 percent year-over-year.
Prices are moving higher but at a modest pace. The median price for the D.C. region edged up to $417,000 last month, rising to its highest level for April since 2007.
“Prices are going up, so people are making money, people are getting value,” Casper said. “Buyers are willing to pay now, but they want quality. They want to know that they have gotten something for their money.”
Most jurisdictions saw price increases with the exception of Alexandria, Loudoun, Anne Arundel and Frederick. Alexandria’s median price sank to $459,500 last month from $517,000 in April 2014. Loudoun’s median price fell to $420,000 from $423,000. Anne Arundel’s median price dropped to $300,000 from $307,700. Frederick’s median price tumbled to $248,000 from $255,200.
Arlington’s median price made the biggest jump, outside of Falls Church. Because of its few number of sales, Falls Church has the most volatile median price in the area. Its median price soared to $780,000 last month from $572,500 in April 2014. Arlington’s median price shot to $572,900 from $491,000.
Buyers are finding more choices as the number of homes on the market continues to swell, growing to 10,867 active listings last month. Fairfax County has the most homes for sale (3,669 properties), followed by Montgomery County (2,950). The 8,713 new listings that came on the market last month were the most for a 30-day period in the past 60 months.
Once they’ve found a place to live, buyers are snapping it up quickly. Half the homes sold last month lasted on the market two weeks or less. Prince George’s County has the highest number of days on market at 26, while the District has the lowest number of days on market at eight.