Monday, April 13, 2009

First Quarter, Washington DC Region: Market Activity Remains High

MRIS, the local MLS company servicing the Washington DC Metropolitan area, is reporting high activity levels again in March 2009, for the 4th consecutive month, in year over year comparisons. This area includes most of Maryland, Northern Virginia, all of Washington DC and the panhandle of West Virginia.

The Affordability Index is now at 156, nearly 50% higher than two years ago. This means that the median family income is now 156% of the required qualifying income for the median home price. In simple terms, this indicates that most area households more than qualify to purchase a home in the area where they live and work.

Continuing fallout from the foreclosure mess is holding prices down in most areas of the region, but there are many indicators that the local market has reached a level of stabilization.

The first time home buyer credit of up to $8,000 is coaxing first time home buyers off the fence…and even trade up buyers are braving the market because of the amazing prices and interest rates, now putting the cost of their dream homes within reach – even considering the reduction in the value of their current homes.

Despite reports that show high numbers of days of marketing activity, actual experience in the market indicates something very different. In fact, at some price points, there is very little inventory, despite the appearance of available homes when searching the MLS. This is a direct result of how distress sales are being handled. REOs (bank owned/post foreclosure properties) often have active listings for several days, perhaps a week or longer, after they've verbally accepted an offer. Short sales often have multiple offers submitted to the bank awaiting approval for several weeks or months, all the while showing as available listings in the MLS system. So, buyers entering the market, after investigating via online searches, are very shocked to find that much of what they saw online was actually phantom inventory.

While regional reports give some insight, real estate remains a very local business. Within the DC Area are many submarkets and even mini- or micro-markets defined by geography and price points.

Many reports are available to the general public at – click on News and then on Market Statistics – reports here can be run by county or zip code for each month. However, as pointed out in this post, remember that statistics don't always present a thorough picture of the market… contact a local REALTOR today.

I service the Dulles region – a suburb of Washington DC, which includes Fairfax and Loudoun counties and part of Prince William County. Contact me now for information about these markets, or for a referral to a knowledgeable professional in your market.

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