If you’re relocating to the Washington region from places such as Atlanta, Charlotte or Philadelphia and are looking to buy a home in the $750,000 range, chances are you’ve already experienced a reality check.
In those cities, $750,000 would be considered the luxury market — where you can buy an estate on several acres.
Not so here.
“Buyers who come to our area looking for an equivalent home go through sticker shock in this area when they try to duplicate what they had before,” said Jeremy Cunningham, a real estate agent at Redfin who mainly covers Northern Virginia.
In this area, $750,000 is considered the mid-range. Luxury starts around $1.2 million, he said.
Low inventory and high demand have sparked intense bidding wars in the $500,000 price point. But those factors also are playing out in the $750,000-and-above price range. Houses are being snapped up by buyers as confidence in the housing market continues to increase and interest rates remain relatively low.
“Homes at this price point seem to be moving extremely well in today’s market — many within a few days after listing and others with multiple offers,” said Lee Goldstein, associate broker with Evers & Co. Real Estate. He recently listed a home for $750,000 in the District that received a contract the first weekend it hit the market.
John L. Heithaus, chief marketing officer of Rockville-based multiple listing service MRIS, said that while the segment of qualified buyers in the $750,000-and-above price range is smaller, it’s encouraging that resale homes are showing strong growth.
He said consumer confidence is high as talks of the sequestration and government cutbacks haven’t panned out to be as bad as people feared.
“When consumer confidence is high, the resale potential is high,” Heithaus said. “As the market started to recover, lending also got more aggressive,” he said, adding that jumbo loans are making a comeback.
Morgan Knull, associate broker with Re/Max Gateway, agreed and said that buyers have largely been motivated by low mortgage interest rates even on jumbo loans.
“Now that interest rates have been creeping higher, I’m seeing more buyers jumping off the fence and aggressively trying to secure a suitable property that they can place a 30-year fixed mortgage on,” Knull said.
MRIS data illustrate that middle-range listings are selling much faster than they were a year ago. Homes priced between $600,000 and $799,000 spent seven days on the market in May 2013, compared with 11 days in May 2012. Homes priced between $800,000 and $999,000 spent eight days on the market in May, down from 18 days a year ago.
Sharron Cochran, a real estate agent with W.C.&A.N. Miller Realtors, said she has seen the growing competition throughout the region among buyers in this price range.
“In a number of close-in neighborhoods, inside and near the Beltway, especially those near Metro, homes priced between $750,000 and $800,000 are selling quickly, sometimes with multiple offers, provided they are not overpriced for the location, size and condition,” she said, adding that today’s buyers are looking for perceived value and are snapping up homes that are clean, freshly painted, and especially those with updated kitchens and bathrooms.
The declining number of days on the market results in growing bidding wars and higher home prices. The median sale price continues to rise for most of the Washington region with Alexandria and the District posting record highs, according to RealEstate Business Intelligence (RBI), a subsidiary of MRIS.
RBI noted that the median sale price for homes in the Washington area in May was $424,800, 8.2 percent higher than in May 2012. Real estate experts say that the low supply is helping to push prices in all home ranges.
“There’s pretty fierce competition at the $750,000 price point, because there’s a lot of two-income buyers who can comfortably afford the associated mortgage payment and also because a $750,000 budget opens a number of possible doors, in terms of townhouses versus detached, and also neighborhoods and location,” Knull said. “So far in 2013, I’ve seen a lot of bidding wars with properties listed around $750,000. We’ve had a pretty robust first quarter and now second quarter with the local real estate market.”
“We’re in one of the strongest markets in that price range in the country,” Heithaus said.
Even though $750,000 is not considered luxury in this region, buyers in that range can expect to find houses with lots of amenities — including updated kitchens, hardwood floors and sometimes 3,000 or more square feet of space.
Typically, houses in that price range have four or five bedrooms. But a rowhouse on G Street in Southeast, listed at $754,000, has only two bedrooms with 21 / 2 bathrooms.
The home is more than 100 years old, and the agent says he thinks it will appeal to people who like historic properties.
The house was “built in 1890, reborn in 2005,” said real estate agent Gary Kraft of Long and Foster. Its owner also happens to be an architect who designed and completed that ground-up rehab.
The electrical and plumbing systems, heat and air conditioning, bathroom fixtures and roof were replaced. The owner also added a large master bedroom with a bay window, spalike bath, skylights and a private, brick-enclosed rear-yard patio.
In Northwest, buyers can find a 1,500-square-foot single-family home built in 1937 that also contains modern features.
The four-bedroom, two full bathrooms and two half-bathroom house on Utah Avenue — priced at $749,000 — has a sprawling covered front porch and a large backyard deck with built-in seating for entertaining. Inside, it has been upgraded with new paint, refinished hardwood floors, recessed lighting and a white kitchen with retro black-and-white tile floors.
A 1951 rambler-style home on Sudbury Place in Northwest is perhaps suitable for people who have households with someone who may not prefer climbing stairs to reach a bedroom. There are three bedrooms on the main level, including a master suite. There’s also a private second master suite on the lower level that’s ideal to use as a guest suite or the nanny’s quarters.
The house, listed at $749,000, includes stainless-steel appliances, heated bathroom flooring and lots of closet space throughout.
“Several features made this home unique and appealing to potential buyers. The home is located on a quiet cul-de-sac, adjacent to Rock Creek Park in the Colonial Village neighborhood, which is convenient to downtown Silver Spring, Bethesda and D.C.,” said Goldstein, of Evers & Co. Real Estate. “The house had been completely updated and offered main level bedrooms, as well as ample living space.”
Fallstone is a community of two-car garage townhouses in the Rockville and Bethesda area. Residents are close to the Capital Beltway and a plethora of shopping and dining options. The home on Hollowstone Drive is selling for $749,000 and is within walking distance of the White Flint Metro station and the planned White Flint Town Center.
“In the Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Cabin John, Potomac and Northwest D.C. neighborhoods where most of my clients are based, this is considered a moderate price range, not upper. It is amazing to me how many new homes being built on infill lots are priced close to $2 million,” Cochran said.
The brick-front townhouse has three bedrooms and 31 / 2 bathrooms. While the interior features a lower-level recreation room and a spacious main level, the exterior has two decks and backs to trees in a private fenced yard. The owners recently added new carpet and a new air-conditioning system.
A five-bedroom, 41 / 2-bathroom single-family colonial in Columbia’s Kings Contrivance neighborhood is listed at $750,000. Built in 1992, the house on Nightsong Lane has been updated to include a master bathroom with a large shower and Jacuzzi tub.
The house includes two staircases, aimed at making it easier to navigate through the 4,800-square-foot home. There’s also a great room with a two-story stone fireplace, a three-season window-filled room and tiered decks overlooking the scenic yard.
In Anne Arundel County’s Edgewater, a home in the Selby on the Bay neighborhood listed for $750,000 contains a new addition on the back designed to provide an enhanced view of the Chesapeake Bay.
The house, on Pocahontas Drive, has upper- and lower-level master bedrooms and family rooms. Additional features include vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors and a lighted walkway that leads to a private pier.
Fredericksburg, about 50 miles outside of the District, contains some special properties. An 1896 four-bedroom, two-bathroom home on one of the city’s most popular streets is listed at $749,000.
The nearly 3,000-square-foot house, on Washington Avenue, has been in the same family for 50 years. It includes the original wood floors and detailed woodwork.
In Falls Church, a three-level end-unit brick townhouse is listed at $759,000. The three-bedroom, 21 / 2-bathroom home on Grace Lane has plenty of windows and distinguishing features such as a step-up columned formal dining room.
It also has a family room with a gas fireplace, private master suite and a multifunctional bonus room as well as a two-car garage and an enclosed brick patio.
Closer in to the District, a four-level townhouse on Kenmore Court in Shirlington, just north of South Arlington, has more than $80,000 in upgrades, including hardwood floors on three levels, granite counters, custom closets, whole-house audio and a private roof deck. It was built in 2008 and is on the market for $749,000.
“There’s literally nothing else like it within a several-mile radius if you’re interested in newer construction with two-car garages and roof decks,” Knull said. “There’s something almost intrinsically special about Shirlington Crest [the name of the Stanley Martin-built community] because it has no competition within the immediate vicinity. It’s a unique product.”
He added that there are older and less conveniently located townhouses in nearby Alexandria and that similar townhouses in North Arlington would be considerably more expensive.
Carisa C. Chappell is a freelance writer.