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What’s ahead for home buyers in Northern Virginia

Buyers in the suburbs are slowing down a little this fall and opting to wait for the right place at the right price in some neighborhoods.
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The 2,544-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bathroom end-unit townhouse at 13773 Ulysses St. in Woodbridge, Va., is listing for $485,000. (By Greg Holden of Grin and Bear It)

The before-the-school-year-starts buyers have settled into their homes in Northern Virginia, so house hunters looking this fall may have less competition for the limited available inventory of properties on the market.

Buyers in the Northern Virginia suburbs, like buyers in other areas, are slowing down a little this fall and opting to wait for the right place at the right price in some neighborhoods. In the most popular locations, though, the sales pace is still fast.

“Buyers in the DMV [District, Maryland and Virginia] are really savvy and ready to buy,” says Nela Richardson, chief economist of Redfin brokerage in Washington. “There’s no learning curve required. But, especially in the fall, they’ve got plenty of time to wait for the right house.”

Richardson says many buyers in the Northern Virginia suburbs have close ties to the federal government either as employees or contractors and are more likely to delay purchases if they are concerned about the consequences of politics and any potential shrinking of the government.

“The most affluent buyers, though, who are looking at a higher price point, are more globally focused and are more jaded, so their decisions are less impacted by government policy,” says Richardson.

The close-in suburbs in Virginia have markets similar to the District, says Richardson, and sellers are seeing a little less buyer traffic than anticipated this fall.

“Even though it’s still clearly a seller’s market, buyers are demanding more,” says Richardson. “They’re expecting more inventory to become available in the future and are less likely to compete with multiple offers above the list price.”

Richardson says Northern Virginia buyers will agree to pay the list price, but Redfin agents say they are hearing more often that buyers then want the sellers to fix every small item found on a home inspection report.


The 3,792-square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bathroom single-family house at 7029 Highland Meadows Court in Alexandria is listing for $840,000. (By TruPlace)

Fast-selling homes

Whether sales will slow in the fall remains to be seen, but during the first nine months of 2017, homes in Northern Virginia have been selling quickly and at higher prices than in 2016, according to Jonathan Hill, vice president of customer engagement for multiple listing service Bright MLS (formerly MRIS) in Rockville.

Bright’s statistics show that the average number of days a property stays on the market declined by 17.7 percent year-to-date at the end of September.

“The majority of homes sold within one to 10 days,” says Hill. “In fact, the number of homes that sold within 10 days is 10 times the number of homes that sold in any other time frame.”

Not only are homes selling quickly, they are also selling for more money this year. Sale prices rose 4.4 percent during the first nine months of 2017 compared to the first nine months of 2016, says Hill. The number of homes sold also rose by 4.1 percent during that period.

The price range with the most listings of single-family (detached) homes in Northern Virginia is $600,000 to $800,000. For townhouses, buyers will find the highest number of listings priced between $300,000 and $400,000; for condos, the highest number of listings is between $200,000 and $300,000.

“The lack of inventory continues to be a problem in Northern Virginia, which had just a 2.5-month supply of homes in September,” says Hill. “A balanced market typically has a five- to six-month supply of homes.”

Hill says that prices were up year-over-year in September everywhere in Northern Virginia except in Fairfax County where sale prices remained unchanged from last year’s level of $460,000.

“The housing market is just tired, especially in high-priced neighborhoods,” says Hill. “One exception to that is Fairfax City, where prices rose by 24 percent to $541,500 in September. But in that area we’re only looking at 38 sales. Since it’s such a small market, so that’s kind of an outlier.”

New construction

Newly built homes typically cost more than resale properties in every part of the country. In Northern Virginia, high costs for land and labor make construction even more expensive.

“If you’re looking for affordable housing, Stafford County is about the only place in Northern Virginia with more affordable prices,” says Dan Fulton, senior vice president of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Reston. “Embrey Mill is one of the most interesting developments there, a planned community with lots of amenities with good commuting options to Fort Belvoir and Quantico.”

Fulton says single-family homes at Embrey Mill are priced in the $300,000s. In addition, there are affordable townhouses and single-family homes under development at Summerfield in Fredericksburg by Beazer Homes, priced from the mid-$200,000s for the townhouses and the low-$300,000s for the single-family homes. Nearby at Rappahannock Landing, Ryan Homes and Lennar are building townhouses priced in the $200,000s.

In Manassas, Stanley Martin Homes is building townhouses and townhouse-style condos at the Landing at Cannon Branch, which will be part of a mixed-use development that includes a brewpub. Prices have yet to be determined for the community, where sales will begin later this year.

At Potomac Shores in Prince William County, Brookfield Homes, NV Homes, Ryan Homes and Pulte Homes are building townhouses priced from the upper $300,000s to the low $400,000s and single-family homes priced from the upper $400,000s to the $600,000s. The planned community adjacent to the Potomac River features numerous amenities, including a golf course, pools, parks and a future VRE station.

In Loudoun County, high-end townhouses by the Knutson Companies are nearly sold out at Crescent Place in Leesburg, purchased by empty-nesters and others who want to live in a walkable community, says Chris Masters, executive vice president of McWilliams | Ballard in Washington. Similar townhouses are under construction at Brambleton, priced in the $600,000s and located within walking distance of Brambleton Town Center.

In Herndon, Stanley Martin Homes is building condos across the Dulles Toll Road from the future Herndon Metro station. Pricing has yet to be determined for these two-level townhouse-style condos, which will include roof terraces on the upper units.

In Alexandria, EYA will begin selling townhouses and condos at Robinson Landing on the Potomac. Townhouses are expected to be completed by next summer and the condos should be ready for occupants by the third quarter of 2019. The townhouses are anticipated to be priced from $1.6 million to $2.25 million. The condos, each of which are flow-through units from front to back so they all have a river view, are expected to be priced from $1.25 million to $5.5 million.

As is typical of the D.C. area, buyers will find more affordable housing farther from the city, which is also where more new construction is occurring. The close-in suburbs continue to experience low inventory among resale properties, making it tough for some to find a house to buy.

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