“It stinks to be you,” was the response I got from people at Holiday parties I attended this month. Everybody knew that the real estate market was down and that I must be having a hard time. After responding “No, the market is great” a couple of times I realized that people thought I was one of those positive Realtors who liked ads generated by the National Association of Realtors that say things like “It’s a Great time to buy a home.” All I could think was my true friends know what a cynic I really am. They don’t accuse me of being a positive thinker.
Then yesterday the Washington Post published an article “Home Prices in U.S. Decrease More Than Forecast.” Deep in the article (for those who read that far) you learned that the DC area bucked the national trend. The market here is actually up. Today the Post Published “Washington region posts gains as home prices still falling in most U.S. cities” saying the DC Metro market is up 3.7%. Their graphic states that home values in the Washington area are “mixed.” Well that’s true. In the sense that the Maryland side is generally down or up only slightly. The Virginia side is up a lot more than 3.7%. Check out the Washington Post’s graphic:
Northern Virginia prices were up significantly this year, a trend that started around June 2009. A chart, which just includes Northern Virginia, from George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis:
My biggest challenge this year has been finding the right house for buyer clients I am working with. The number of homes for sale has remained at a low enough level that certain types of homes simply are not available. It has really turned into a (mild) seller’s market, while nobody seems to know it. Just last week I heard a seller gasp in astonishment at the 5 offers she had on her home in the first weekend it was available. Did she not know there was NOTHING even similar on the market in the whole area?
The week before, I spoke to an agent selling his own house that complained how hard it was to sell a house in this market. Really? Every other house that comes on a a reasonable price is getting snapped up quickly. There is no doubt why his hasn’t sold. It won’t appraise anywhere near what he is asking. He’ll eventually sell it, and probably way below market, after it sits there long enough that he’ll give it away and one buyer goes in and takes advantage of the situation.
If you are selling real estate in Northern Virginia, know the local market. Not just of your county, but of your city, school district, and neighborhood. If there are no other houses like yours on the market, realize there are buyers out there who will be fighting for it.
If you are buying, understand that there are a shortage of houses on the market. Be patient and wait for the right opportunity to come up. And realize that there are a lot of sellers out there who don’t realize what they have. If they’ve been watching the news, they probably think our real estate market is down. Know better.
Written by Jeff Royce of Frankly Real Estate, Inc. Fairfax, VA, 703-585-5663