"Half the [D.C.] homes sold in January were on the market for 26 days, and the competition among buyers pushed the average percent of asking price received at sale up to 98.6 percent," according to the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors. "The $504,250 median price for the month was slightly higher than last year (1.9 percent) and marked the highest January level on record for the District."
"The inventory question is a puzzle," said Chris Herbert, managing director of Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. "If you drill down and say, what's happening at the lower end of the market, what's happening in more affordable neighborhoods, those places had a much more dramatic boom-bust in house prices. Even though prices have come back there pretty strongly, they are much more likely to be underwater or low equity, so I think part of it is even though we think we have seen the market heal, there's still a lot of healing left to do."
Herbert also points to younger baby boomers, who lost home equity and more in the recession, and who are not trading up as much as their age group historically does. They are staying put in their homes, not adding to much-needed inventory. Add it up and it comes out to less — less inventory, which in turn puts upward pressure on prices.
Sellers, however, appear to be seeing a limit. They are not pricing their homes as aggressively as they did last fall, according to real estate brokerage Redfin. While homes are selling fast, not everything sells, especially if it's overpriced. Sellers know the only thing worse than not getting top dollar is sitting on the market and becoming a "stale" listing.
"Even with surging home prices, listings were still down in January from a year ago," said Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson. "Sellers are worried that today's buyers won't pay enough for their current home to finance their next-level house."
Back in suburban D.C., after an exhausting two days and 19 home tours, the Sciullis left without making any offers.