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Rappahannock Market Update

Sep. 27, 2011
Categorized in: Rappahannock County

It's been awhile since we've taken a look at the stats for individual markets. So we'll start with the smallest market today, Rappahannock, and then do Culpeper, Fauquier and Prince William over the next week.

The October, 2011 report for Rappahannock County shows mostly discouraging news. The total number of Active Listings is, in my mind, the most discouraging number with a total of 108 properties currently looking for buyers. Of the 6 properties sold last month, one third of them were on the market for over a year. The dollar volume of sales is down 58% year over year. The average sold price is down 44% year over year. Average days on market for the county is now 221, up 118% from where we were in October of 2010. The average list price and average sold price are both down over 40%. There's not much in the way of bright spots there.

The sole bit of good news I can offer is that, as usual in Rappahannock, the volumes are so tiny that it's almost impossible to draw many conclusions from a single month's data. Even year over year, volumes are just too small to compare two months and come to any relevant conclusions.

What I can tell you is that if you look at longer term trends, meaning several years worth of data, you see that average monthly sales are up from the depths of the recession. Now that only means that 6-8 houses sell in a given month rather than 3-4. But for those 3 or 4 homeowners, it makes a difference. Days on market remains high, but not as high as it's been. And, where once we were looking at around 3 years of inventory, at the current pace of sales it's more like 18 months.

There is no way to look at the data and suggest prices are better or firmer, although I suspect they're relatively stable.

If you're selling your home in Rappahannock County, make sure it's in excellent condition. If it's not, be prepared to discount it steeply and still wait a long time for the right buyer.


Prince William Wild Appreciation

Apr. 28, 2010
Categorized in: Prince William County

I was listening to The Kojo Namdi Show this week as they discussed immigration and was shocked to hear Corey Stewart, the Prince William County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors say that home values in the county will increase 27% this year.

Am I shocked they're going to be up that much? No, if you look at current market statistics they already look to be up that much year over year, maybe even more. The data supports his statement.

I've written a lot of offers in Prince William County over the last few months. Every single property we wrote an offer on has multiple offers. One had 12 offers, 9 of them cash. So, no, it doesn't shock me that prices are up that much.

I am shocked a politician is that well informed about our market.

I also continue to worry about that kind of jump in price right now. Those were the kind of crazy price increases we saw before the whole market went kablooie (that's a technical term). I am having trouble believing that this is an indication of a healthy market.

What do you think? Too much, too soon? Will we crash and burn again or are these prices just the proof that the market over-corrected?

March Local Market Numbers

Apr. 13, 2010
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

It's been a few months since I've written about the overall market stats for the area. So, let's see what's changed.

We'll talk about Rappahannock first for a change. How does it compare to a year ago? 86 listings now compared to 76 then. 6 sales in March 2010 compared to 3 last year at the same time.

Note: Remember, real estate is seasonal and year over year numbers are a much smarter comparison than month to month.

The one Rappahannock statistic that jumps out is the number of new contracts in March. There were 8. That's the highest number of new contracts in one month since August, 2006.

Culpeper has 433 active listings compared to 464 last year at this time. While sales in other counties jumped in March after a couple of slow months, March still looks pretty flat in Culpeper. But the median sales price is up almost 10% year over year. That's 2 months in a row that have shown price increases. If you look over a longer time horizon, it's certainly easy to make the case that prices remain flat to slightly higher. The number of contracts ratified in March is down, year over year, but up significantly month over month. Last year at this time there was an increase in contracts from February to March. As always, I'm reluctant to speculate on what these tiny data points mean, other than to say, stay tuned.

Fauquier County also shows declining inventory, 516 now vs. 556 a year ago. Sales are 73 in March of 2010, a significant increase from the 43 in March of 2009. In fact, you can pick just about any metric you want in Fauquier, including price, and it's up. The absorption rate would indicate a very balanced market. That's slightly misleading since there's little inventory available at the lower price ranges.

Prince William County continues to be the place where the buyers are lining up to buy. As an example, a listing came on the market in Gainesville this morning and by this evening when I tried to take my clients to show it, I was turned away and told it was already under contract. Inventory has dropped year over year from 3079 a year ago to 2595 now. Sales have dropped though, from 750 a year ago to 559. I believe that has more to do with a lack of properties in the lower price ranges rather than a lack of interest by buyers. And inventory is coming on the market at a slower pace. Last year in March 1219 new properties were listed. In March 2010 only 964 properties came on the market. Prices reflect the shortage of inventory. Prices have been climbing in Prince William County for months now.

It's a great time to be a buyer in our area if you don't mind bidding wars and competing against cash offers! It's a great time to be a seller if you are not expecting prices at 2005 levels!



2009 Year in Review

Jan. 4, 2010
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

As we head into 2010, let's start by looking backwards into 2009 and see how my predictions fared.

First of all, it's clear to me now that years from now we'll look back and see 2009 as the year when the real estate recovery really began to take hold, at least in this part of Virginia. That doesn't mean that the prospects are entirely rosy going forward, but the contrast between 2008 and 2009 are simply incredible.

Whereas the big story in 2008 was price drops, the big story this year is price increases, year over year, across the board. Whether you're talking about Culpeper, Fauquier, Prince William or Rappahannock County, prices are up year over year. Now bear in mind that's after several years of steep declines. And these increases are very modest, in the single digits. On prices, I was too pessimistic, anticipating another year of falling prices. I've never been so happy to be wrong! I predicted a price decline of 10% with that primarily coming on properties at the $400K and above price point. In reality, the only place we saw any price weakness was at the very high end of the market.

Inventory declined dramatically. I got this one partially right in that I predicted a continued decline. But it's been more rapid than I expected. Inventory in Culpeper is down 20% year over year and we're now at 11 months of inventory. Still a buyer's market there but better than a year ago.

In Fauquier County the decline was 21% but we're down to only 8 months of inventory. And in both counties, quality inventory at the lower price points is scarce and snapped up quickly.

Prince William County had an amazing decline of 37% in year over year inventory! We're now looking at only about 4 months of inventory here and it's clearly a seller's market in every way except price. But we'll get to that.

In Rappahannock County, after an unexpected inventory surge late in the year, we've started falling again. The November numbers show us pretty much flat, year over year. But preliminary December numbers show a December drop off. Some of that will be sellers deciding not to bother having their homes on the market over the holidays. But some of that inventory will not be coming back.

And now for the volumes. This is the area where I was probably the most off. I predicted 640 homes would sell in Culpeper in 2009. In fact, even with the tax incentives that number was only 595, the exact same number as in 2008.

In Fauquier I predicted that 645 homes would sell in 2009. I was conservative there, with 675 selling a significant increase from the 600 in 2008.

Prince William made me look especially inept, with only 7825 sales as opposed to my forecast of 8800. In my defense, the miserably small inventory kept a lot of would-be buyers on the sideline. That 7825 is actually a decrease over the roughly 8000 sold in 2008. It's a troubling trend.

All in all, my performance as a prognosticator was mixed. I was too optimistic in some areas, not optimistic enough in others and got it just about right in a few.

Despite my lack of perfection, I'll risk looking foolish again later this week with my 2010 predictions!




June Numbers

Jul. 11, 2008
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

The official June numbers have been released for this area of Virginia. Let's take a look, by county, at what they have to tell us.

First, Culpeper County. Compared to a year ago, inventory is down (732 now vs. 784 then). New contracts written have jumped (61 now vs. 47 then) and we see the same thing with solds (57 vs, 31). It's all good news! The only thing we see that isn't positive is that we're still adding new listings at a faster clip than I'd like. There were 130 new listings in June, compared to 113 a year ago. Still, when you look at year over year numbers, this is some of the best news we've seen in awhile.

Fauquier county presents a more mixed picture. The great news is Fauquier is inventory. A year ago we were looking at 865 homes on the market. Now we're down to 753. That's a 13% reduction in inventory. Good news! And the trend seems likely to continue. There were 128 new listings this month compared to 171 a year ago. The mixed part is the number of contracts and sales. There were 61 new contracts written this month compared to 65 a year ago. And 67 homes sold compared to 65 a year ago. Those aren't terrible numbers, but they're not telling as good a story as the other numbers.

Prince William County is where things are really hopping! This is the best news of any jurisidiction. And it follows the nationwide trend of this housing recovery happening closer to urban centers. Inventory is down from a year ago (5501 vs. 5703). But look at the contracts written and the number of solds! 987 new contracts were written in June. Compare that to last June when there were only 454. That's an increase of over 100%. And the solds tell a similar story. The numbers in June were 834 vs. 456 a year ago. The number of new listings is also decreasing 1448 now vs. 1539 in 2007. There's not a spec of bad news to be found in Prince William! Anecdotal evidence supports this. There are numerous examples of not only quick sales, but multiple offers on the most attractively priced properties.

Rappahannock remains in its own little world! Inventory is up from 79 to 85. New listings are almost identical to a year ago (17 now, 16 then). New contracts are down from 7 a year ago to 4 now.  Solds are exactly the same at 4. In other words things remain much the same in Rappahannock County.

This is the most positive report I've seen in a long time. There's no way to look at these numbers and not be optimistic.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that in Prince William County they may have seen the bottom. We won't know for sure until at least 6 months from now, but it's possible.

By the way, if you're a seller that doesn't mean you can raise your price! The properties priced CORRECTLY FOR THE MARKET are selling. There are still plenty of them sitting there!


Culpeper March Numbers

Apr. 17, 2008
Categorized in: Culpeper County

I'm a little late getting March's numbers out to you all. Blame the IRS! But now that taxes are done, it's time to dive into the numbers and take a look. I haven't done individual posts by county for awhile so I'll be doing that over the course of the next few days.

Today it's Culpeper.

The biggest difference between February and March is the number of new listings coming on the market. Last month there were 206 new listings. This month there were only 142 new listings. That would seem to be helpful to the total amount of inventory on the market but there's only a slight difference (February: 819, March: 802). The other notable difference is the number of sales which increased from 31 in February to 42 in March.

Those numbers are interesting, but the more interesting comparison is with what happened a year ago. Remember, real estate is very seasonal. Spring markets are very different from fall or winter markets. The best comparison is almost always year over year changes.

In March of 2007, a year ago, the total inventory was only 643, as opposed to the 802 we've got now. The number of new listing taken were 145, almost identical to the number in March of 2008, 142. The number of new contracts was also very similar, 54 last year, 53 this year. The biggest difference is the number of closed sales. That number was 52 in March of 2007 and 42 in March of 2008.

Year over year it's hard to see any signs that this market is turning around.

Prices continue to drop. Average sales price in Culpeper county a year ago was $328,013. The average sales price now is $288,017. That's a 12% drop in one year. That's significant. There's no sign that prices are stabilizing either.

One statistic that surprised me is that the total number of new construction listings are up. As more and more builders have slowed or stopped building, I expected a reduction in new construction listings. But a year ago there were 224 new construction properties listed and now there are 263.

But perhaps even more surprising is the number of new construction sales. 12 sold in March of 2007 and only 4 in 2008. Considering the terrific deals most builders are providing, that's surprising. If you're ever going to buy new construction, the deals out there right now may make this the time.

Overall, there's not much here to raise your hopes if you're a seller. Lots of continued good news for the buyers!

November Average Sales Prices

Dec. 12, 2006
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

There's lots of talk out there about what's happening in the housing market.  But let's look at some hard numbers for some of the local jurisdictions.

November '06 Average Home Sale Prices
County/Jurisdiction 11/06 Avg Sales Price % Change from 11/05
DC $497,291 -10.96%
Prince George's, MD $344,956 5.84%
Montgomery, MD $515,948 1.64%
Frederick, MD $347,386 0.25%
Alexandria, VA $485,757 -2.49%
Fairfax, VA $521,353 -3,82%
Loudon, VA $501,673 -6.38%
Fauquier, VA $391,885 -23.31%
Warren, VA $298,988 6.94%


As you can see, Fauquier County has been hit substantially harder than surrounding areas. I don't have Culpeper numbers right now, but I would speculate that they are worse than Culpeper. John McClain, senior fellow at the center for Regional Analysis, George Mason University says we've taken the brunt of this because of the large percentage of new construction on the market here. When existing homes are competing against that much new construction and the upgrades being offered for free often add up to $50K or more, existing homes lose!

The good news is that some of that inventory is starting to be absorbed. With numbers this low, I believe we will not see substantial continued decreases in prices, at least in the outlying counties.  But don't hold your breath for a quick rebound either! There are still a lot of empty new homes out there!

Bottoming Out?

Dec. 5, 2006
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

Toll Brothers came out with earnings reports today that looked pretty ugly! Their net income feel 44% last quarter. And their forward predictions weren't all sunshine and daffodils either! Now, I'd be the first to say that doesn't sound like news.  We've heard one bad news story after another in the housing sector. Everybody's earnings look terrible!

But the interesting thing today is that Toll Brothers stock actually went up after their press conference. The market wasn't looking at last quarter, it was looking at what Toll Brothers was saying. And what they said is that they believe they're seeing the bottom in some markets. Most notably for us they specifically mentioned the DC/Northern VA area as one of the places they're seeing that bottom. That would be terrific news!

It should be noted that seeing a bottom does not indicate a big rebound to what we were seeing a couple of years ago. In fact, it doesn't indicate price increases are in the works at all. But if it's true, it would mean an end to falling prices in the near future. It would mean buyers would be a little more comfortable buying again. And these are all very good things!

The question here is how reliable is what Toll Brothers is saying. And it's hard to know. Certainly they have a reason to want to be optimistic for the sake of a higher stock price. But companies who mislead the markets typically get hammered later and most reputable companies don't want to risk that by puffing up their estimates. In fact, often a company would prefer to downplay future expectations.

So, there is reason to be optimistic there. And a little optimism in December never hurt anyone!

Piedmont Real Estate Blog

Blog by Julie Emery
Amissville, Virginia

An ongoing dialog on real estate news, opinion and trends in Northern Virginia and the greater Piedmont area. Julie is an Associate Broker at Frankly Real Estate Inc, 6304 Crossroads Circle, Ste 102, Falls Church, VA 22044


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