- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

A $1 million home used to be a rare, grand mansion in the hills or on the water.

Today, a $1 million price tag dangles from a three-bedroom Bethesda home close to the Metro and in a good school district. But the bathrooms still sport early 1990s decor.

Or a 1950s home in Arlington that’s close to the Metro and has a detached, one-car garage. But it has only two bedrooms.

For the first time, there are more than 1 million owner-occupied homes in the United States worth $1 million or more, according to Census Bureau figures released late last month. Of the nation’s 1,034,386 $1 million-plus homes, 6,006 are in the District.

And while there are more $1 million-plus homes, they aren’t as luxurious as they used to be. San Francisco alone has more than 20,000 of them. Another 46,000 are in Orange County, Calif.

“Substantially more homes are selling for over $1 million,” ReMax Allegiance agent Mike Pugh said. “In Arlington, I used to see a few million-dollar homes; now you almost see more $1 million homes on the market than not.”

Mr. Pugh does most of his business in Arlington. There, for a $1 million, home seekers shouldn’t expect excessive perks. They’re more likely to find a relatively updated abode built at least 10 years ago.

“A middle executive home from the ‘50s or ‘60s, or a bungalow closer to the Metro with some charm and some updates,” Mr. Pugh said. “And maybe a one- or two-car garage.”

The number of homes sold for more than $1 million this year has risen significantly since last year in almost all local jurisdictions.

One of the most significant increases has been in Arlington County, where 143 single-family homes sold for more than $1 million this year through last month. A year ago, it was 56, according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

In the District, 393 homes were sold for more than $1 million this year through last month. Last year, it was 252, according to the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors. Condominium sales are counted in a separate category.

The national surge in high-end prices has happened quickly. The Census Bureau’s 2004 American Community Survey found 1,034,386 homes worth at least $1 million in 2004, compared with 595,441 in 2002 and 394,878 in 2000.

“It’s only a matter of time before a $700,000 or $800,000 home becomes a $1 million property,” said Marcie Flournoy, a Long & Foster agent in Northern Virginia.

Before 2002, there were few $1 million-plus properties outside of Great Falls, McLean, Potomac and parts of Old Town Alexandria.

“Now, almost everything on a good-sized lot is a million,” Ms. Flournoy said.

Buyers are laying down $1 million or more for neighborhoods, not nice homes or great perks, she said.

“You’re not talking about mega-mansions; $1 million gets you a nice house in a great neighborhood,” said Phyllis Alexander, an agent with Long & Foster in Northwest who also works in Montgomery County. She said that while there are plenty of $1 million-plus properties, there are still plenty of homes available for less than $1 million.

Pat Reinhart, a ReMax Allegiance agent, counted 39 homes on the market in Fairfax Station on Wednesday for more than $1 million. There were another 155 in McLean.

“That’s very unusual,” Mrs. Reinhart said. “A few years back, if you had five or six at a time, that was a good average number of houses on the market. It’s gone up considerably.”

The housing market is so strong that homeowners have so much equity in the houses they are selling that they are able to put down a large down payment on a new home, mortgage loan officer John Facada said.

Five or 10 years ago, customers put 10 percent down on a home. Now they’re able to put 30 percent to 50 percent down, said Mr. Facada, an officer at Alliance Home Funding in Fairfax.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has warned that housing prices in some markets have been driven to “unsustainable levels,” and some homeowners have borrowed heavily against their homes’ equity to fuel their spending.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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