Northern Virginia’s housing market is showing signs of fatigue

WASHINGTON — There was a pronounced drop in the number of homes for sale in Northern Virginia in September, and prices may be showing signs of topping out.

For potential buyers, the headwinds continue to multiply.

The number of sales across the Northern Virginia region almost universally fell in September, with sales in Arlington County down 12 percent from a year ago, sales in Fairfax County down 15 percent and sales in Loudoun County down 23 percent, according to Long & Foster Real Estate.

Alexandria posted the only annual gain in sales — up 13 percent — but that was based on just 196 homes that sold.

The median price of what sold in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties was up from September 2017, but prices in Arlington and Alexandria were 2 percent lower than a year ago.

Inventory — the number of homes for sale — fell across the board, with the biggest decline coming in Arlington and Loudoun counties, down 17 percent and 16 percent respectively.

“We are getting to the point where we are going to have affordability challenges,” said Larry “Boomer” Foster, president of Long & Foster Real Estate.

“Going forward, prices will likely climb beyond the reach of more buyers as mortgage interest rates rise toward the 5 percent mark and wage growth fails to keep up with current cost trends,” he said.

Long & Foster said the numbers tell a broad story of a market that has seen limited supply consumed by demand, and that is now eroding the number of sales. And while high demand and low supply could mean higher home prices, in this case, buyers don’t have more money to spend, especially with interest rates rising.

Alexandria remains the most expensive Northern Virginia housing market, with a median selling price in September of almost $523,000. Prince William County remains the most affordable, with a median selling price of $365,000 in September, though that was up 8 percent from a year ago, the largest gain in Northern Virginia.

Below is a chart of September housing activity in Northern Virginia, courtesy of Long & Foster Real Estate:

Click to enlarge. (Courtesy Long & Foster)
Click to enlarge. (Courtesy Long & Foster)
Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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