- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Housing may not be a buyer’s market much longer not if home prices continue to climb to record highs.

In the District, the median price of a home was $460,000 in March, up $55,000, or nearly 14 percent from the same period the previous year, according to a survey from RealEstate Business Intelligence, a subsidiary of MRIS that tracks home prices. That’s the District’s highest median price in the history of the survey.

RealEstate Business Intelligence says the region’s low number of homes available for sale means they are selling faster and at higher prices.

“Low inventory continues to push up prices for most of the region,” the report said.

Last week, CoreLogic, another real estate data firm, reported that home prices are rising nationally. In February, U.S. home prices jumped 10.2 percent from the same period the previous year the largest annual gain in home values since March 2006.

States like Nevada, Arizona and California that suffered the most in the housing collapse have seen the biggest rebounds.

“That’s impressive for being February,” said Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist. “This is the offseason for housing, so prices rising this dramatically is a very good sign.”

The trend seems to have carried over into March, according to RealEstate Business Intelligence’s report.

In the Washington region, which includes Virginia and Maryland suburbs, the median sale price ticked up 8 percent to $372,500 in March from $345,000 last year.

In Falls Church, sellers fetched the highest prices in the region in March. The median home price there was $631,000, an increase of nearly $175,000, or 38 percent, from last year’s $458,300.

Alexandria sellers saw the median home price rise to $487,500 in March, up about $95,000, or 24 percent, from last year. That was the second highest sale price in the region.

The emerging rebound could transform what has been years-long buyer’s market into a seller’s market but don’t look for a return to the bang-bang days of pre-collapse 2007 just yet, experts say.

“Despite the rising prices, sellers remain cautious as evidenced by the drop in new listings,” the report said. “Lingering economic uncertainty likely remains an issue for many, and the low inventory of available properties could be deterring many would be sellers from moving.”

Not every town is feeling the recovery. Fairfax City was the only area in the Washington region to see a decline in home prices. The median home price sunk to $392,500 in March, down nearly 12 percent from $443,750 a year ago.

The pricing report comes as real estate inventory continues to shrink. In March, there were only 6,289 active listings, or homes for sale, which is down significantly by more than 40 percent, or about 4,200 listings, from last year.

That means the few homes that do hit the market sell fast.

Buyer demand has driven down the median for the number of days it takes to sell a home in the Washington area to just 15 days a decline of more than 60 percent from last year’s 41 days.

Homes are selling at a quicker pace than at any time since September 2005.

All the competition for homes means sellers are getting close to their asking price. According to the survey, the sale-to-list price ratio climbed to 97.6 percent in March, the highest rate in nearly seven years.

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