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ArlingtonReal EstateSellers still have upper hand in N.Va. homes market

Sellers still have upper hand in N.Va. homes market

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Despite an increase in new listings in February, sellers remained in the driver’s seat across the Northern Virginia home-sales market.

“Long gone are the days when buyers could go home [after viewing a property] and ‘sleep on it,’” said Reggie Copeland, principal broker of C.R. Copeland Real Estate and president of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR).

At the end of February, there were 896 homes on the market in the NVAR region, compared to 1,579 a year before.

“Even with a 38.5-percent month-over-month increase in new listings, buyers still snapped them up,” Copeland said in parsing the February NVAR sales data, reported March 16.


A total of 1,355 properties went to closing during the month across the region, with more than 62 percent of them finding a buyer in less than 10 days on the market.

The sales total for the region (Arlington and Fairfax counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church) was actually down 9.5 percent from January 2021, but that needs to be taken in context, as the late-2020-to-early-2021 market in the area was exceptionally active, having been constrained during the initial burst of COVID in mid-2020.

Year-over-year home sales were down in the three major parts of the market – falling by 7.5 percent in Fairfax, 19.8 percent in Arlington and 11.3 percent in Alexandria – and up in the smaller cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.

The average sales price of all properties that went to closing for the month jumped 8 percent to $714,481 regionwide. Sales prices were up inversely when compared to transactions, with Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria posting gains and Falls Church and Fairfax City seeing declines.

Given limited inventory, sellers have been in the driver’s seat for several years in the local market. And that doesn’t appear to be changing.

“The seller’s market continues to strengthen with a contract ratio of 2.27 pending contracts per active listing, up from 1.9 in January and an increase from 1.4 over February 2021,” said Ryan McLaughlin, CEO of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

The five-year February average for the contract ratio is 1.38, he noted.

In the week ending Feb. 27, home-showing levels tracked at 110.5 percent of the same week from February 2020 and 94.4 percent compared to February 2021, according to ShowingTime data as reported by Bright MLS. During that week, there were 105 new pending sales for every 100 new listings.

In order to sell, one has to have a place to go, so the inventory crunch is proving a double-edged sword that requires some finesse.

“Sellers might explore with their Realtor the possibility of listing their home and accepting a contract contingent upon finding a home of choice,” said Copeland, acknowledging market conditions that are challenging for both buyers and sellers. “This allows a seller time to find a home while also being under contract on their current home.”

Adding to the sense of buyer frenzy: the reality that interest rates are on the rise. While still low by historic norms, every additional tick upward will add to affordability issues for many prospective purchasers.

Things could be much, much worse on the interest-rate front: The last time inflation was raging as high as it is today, back in 1983, the average mortgage-interest rate was 16 percent.

On the plus side: A quick, deep recession of the early 1980s (at a time of heightened East-West conflict, no less) knocked down both inflation and interest rates to manageable levels, where they remained for more than three decades.

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