Real Estate

Housing supply surges in northern Virginia

Snapshot of Alexandria, VA real estate
Snapshot of Alexandria, VA real estate

A big jump in listings brought more potential buyers out to northern Virginia's housing market this summer and fall. The traffic, however, did not translate into a similar jump in sales, and homes are now sitting on the market far longer than they did just one year ago.

The problem, ironically, was too few listings at the beginning of the year.

"We only had a 1.64 month supply of homes in January 2014. This led to a lot of multiple contract situations which drove up prices, and by the time many spring sellers put their homes on the market it appears that the prices weren't able to hold, which led to higher days on market and increased inventory," said Edward Berenbaum, a Realtor in Alexandria, Virginia.

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Inventory in October was 40 percent higher compared with a year ago, according to the northern Virginia Association of Realtors, which covers sales activity for Fairfax and Arlington counties as well as the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church. All are considered suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Days on the market rose to 53 from 35, during the same time period, and closed sales fell 6 percent.

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What is likely driving more sellers to the market is the return of both home equity and consumer confidence. Northern Virginia was hit hard during the housing crash, and home prices fell dramatically, leaving thousands of borrowers underwater on their mortgages and stuck in place. With prices higher today, and rising, more movement is possible.

"Most people take a year or so to get mentally and physically ready to put their home on the market, so I think it was the price levels in 2013 that drove the sellers to list this year," added Berenbaum.

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The median price of a northern Virginia home increased 2.2 percent in October from a year ago, according to the NVAR. They rose over 6 percent in both 2012 and 2013. The expectation is for a price flattening this year and into 2015, but should help pull both sellers and buyers back into the market.