- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

My neighbor is trying to sell his house. He tried a couple of years ago but didn’t get the price he wanted. Now, he’s back on the market after renting it for a while.

Last week, I saw a whole lot of potential buyers going in and out of that house - more than I’ve ever seen. Although that particular home hasn’t sold yet (it doesn’t show very well), Realtors in Northern Virginia are reporting an increase in buyer traffic similar to what I’ve seen on my own street.

There’s apparently enough traffic that buyers are beginning to battle one another again.

To download a PDF of the chart, click here.

I have another friend who is trying to buy a town home in Fairfax or Alexandria. Every time he finds one that he likes, two or three other offers beat him to the punch. We haven’t seen that kind of buyer competition in several years.

He’s having trouble because town homes are harder to find this year than in the four past years. At the end of May, about 1,500 town homes were available for sale in Fairfax County compared to 2,500 a year earlier.

That drop in supply means improved market dynamics for town home sellers. And when things are better for sellers, prices usually rise.

Since the beginning of this year, the average sales price for a town home in Fairfax has risen from $295,500 to $320,600. Time on the market for all homes sold in Fairfax dropped from 102 days in January to 77 days in May.

In Arlington, time on the market has remained steady at 80 days, but town home prices went up from $472,500 to $552,500 during the first five months of the year. Single-family homes saw similar price gains in Arlington.

Will home prices continue to rise like that for the rest of the year? Hard to say. Prices typically rise in the spring and level off for the rest of the year. That’s because buyer activity usually tapers off in the summer as people leave town on vacation and parents get ready for school to begin again. So the kind of buyer competition we’ve been seeing lately could diminish in the last half of the year.

That said, this spring market was the first really encouraging one we’ve seen in several years.

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail ([email protected]).

The statistics in this story include the Virginia counties of Arlington and Fairfax and the city of Alexandria.

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