Combing over January’s area home sale stats from SmartCharts MarketStats by ShowingTime, I’ve become accustomed to seeing higher home prices across the region compared to the same month in the previous year. With low inventory and some eager buyers, it’s not surprising at all. These conditions make for quite a strong and competitive sellers’ market. Even so, as I wandered into Arlington County’s January stats, I found myself wiping up spilled coffee all over my desk.
Compared to January 2019, the January 2020 average Arlington County home sale price really jumped 47 percent—from $659,008 in 2019 to $968,949 this year. On paper, that blew away the rest of the area, which also did quite well. Prince Georges County was up 11.4 percent over January 2019, as well as Alexandria City (11.3 percent), Montgomery County (11 percent), Fairfax County (7.7 percent), Washington, D.C. (4.7 percent), and Prince William County (2.1 percent)—for the most part, pretty good numbers.
So what was the deal with Arlington? Was this the Amazon effect in overdrive? Did groundbreaking for the Potomac Yard metro station send prices into the stratosphere? Well … no.
A quick check at Bright MLS revealed that one of the 146 Arlington County homes that sold in January went for a cool $45 million. It was the home of James Kimsey, the co-founder of AOL who died in 2016. I guess you could say it was a bit of an outlier! Remove that sale from the stats, and January prices in Arlington were up about 2 percent over January 2019. So, you might want to put the brakes on raising your competitively priced Arlington home for sale from $750,000 to $1.1 million.
Still, despite $45 million mansions skewing Arlington’s January sales stats, the numbers throughout the area continue to be strong. With the aforementioned tight inventory and great interest rates—below 4 percent for a 30-year fixed at the time of this writing—buyers continue clamoring for local homes, and the competition is tight.
For January 2019 vs. 2020, Arlington County, Fairfax County, and Alexandria City all sold fewer units in 2020, giving another nod to low inventory. Arlington was down more than 11 percent, Alexandria City down 8.5 percent, and Fairfax down 3.6 percent.
On the other hand, places such as Montgomery, Prince William, and Prince Georges counties all sold more in January compared to the same time in 2019. Along with its average January sale price jumping 11 percent, Montgomery County sold 26 percent more homes this year than in January 2019. Prince Georges County was up 15 percent over January 2019, and Prince William County was up almost 7 percent.
Days on market were down across the board. Comparing January 2019 to January 2020, average days on market for home sales was down 23 percent for Arlington County—dropping from 42 days to 32 days. Fairfax county was down almost 23 percent to just 34 days, and Alexandria City was down 20 percent for a 32-day average. Days on market for Prince William County dropped 22 percent, and Montgomery and Prince Georges counties each dropped about 15 percent. In Washington, D.C., however, days on market was down just 2.5 percent over January 2019.
Look deeper into average days on market—32 to 38 days in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William, and a little more than 40 days in Montgomery and Prince Georges—the early days usually see some heavy activity.
In Arlington, 47 percent of homes sold in January sold in the first 10 days on the market. Throughout the area, those sold in the first 10 days varied a little but were still robust: Alexandria City (48 percent), Fairfax County (37 percent), Prince William County (31 percent), Washington, D.C. (30 percent), Montgomery County (27 percent), and Prince Georges County (27 percent).
Keep it in Context
So, what does all this mean? Little anomalies like $45 million mansions can make market watching fun, to say the least, but these little speed bumps also help everyone to check themselves. We look at these one-month snapshots compared to the same month a year earlier not as the single indicator of market direction. Instead, they are single instances that will contribute to a bigger picture that more accurately reflects market performance over time—something on which we will continue to watch and report.
Be sure when watching the market, you’re paying attention to details that could seriously skew the entire market picture and, in the end, cause some challenges. In Arlington, for example, you’re still looking at a relatively small market compared to the rest of the area. While 146 homes sold in Arlington in January, 770 homes sold in Fairfax County.
In addition, these numbers all speak to homes that have actually sold. What about the ones still on the market? While average days on market is an overall indicator and time stamp, it doesn’t mean, for example, that an overpriced home is going to sell within that average. Days on market may average 32 in Arlington County, but out of the county’s 194 active and closed properties within the month of January, about 19 percent of them had been on the market more than 50 days. In Fairfax County during the same period, about 16 percent of the 1,063 active and closed homes had been on the market 50 days or more, and about 6 percent had been on more than 90 days. Those are still pretty good numbers—average days on market for the entire Mid-Atlantic region was 55 in January. But don’t let such figures get in the way of being smart when you decide to sell—pricing your home correctly, ensuring it’s marketed properly, and making it appealing to a whole host of buyers.
For buyers, it’s competitive, but you can have advantages, too. Overall, you need to be well prepared. Find yourself a good lender, and make sure you are in tune with each step of the process. When you find the home you love, you’ll be ready to spring into action and get that offer in.
Whether buying or selling, being a part of this market can be challenging and exhilarating. If you stay on top of your game, you’ll have an edge that some buyers and sellers don’t have. The endgame might not mean a $45 million sale or purchase, but you certainly can arm yourself with solid information to help you put your best foot forward to be successful in this—or any—real estate market.
Christopher Prawdzik, an Accredited Staging Partner® Real Estate Agent, and his wife Angela Logomasini are licensed Realtors® with Samson Properties in Alexandria. Operating as D.C. Region Real Estate, they serve the Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland real estate market and offer comprehensive real estate services, including 4½% full-service listings.
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