Buyer fatigue sets in amid Northern Virginia home bidding wars

January is typically a slow month for home sales in the D.C. area, but this January was not. In Northern Virginia, sales last month were up 29% from a year ago.

Competition among potential buyers for what is for sale has intensified, in part because a lack of listings has exacerbated high homebuyer demand. Those bidding wars have led to what the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors calls “buyer fatigue.”

“There is so much demand right now that it is not unusual for a well-priced, nice, single-family home to have 10 offers,” said Derrick Swaak, president of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. “When you have 10 people writing contracts on a single listing, it means nine people are not going to get it, which means they might have to write 10 different contracts to get their home.”

House hunters in Northern Virginia looking for condos are less likely to face intense competition than single-family house buyers, mainly because there are so many condos on the market right now.

“We saw the single-family homes that were available to purchase down 50%, but on the flip side, the number of condos that are available for purchase up 150%. It is a little bit of a tale of two different markets. The single-family home market is red hot. The condo market is more balanced,” Swaak said.

The pandemic may be a reason there are fewer multiple offers on condos for sale, he said; some buyers may be less interested in elevators, shared amenities and close contact with neighbors. The supply of condos for sale has been growing for several months, particularly high-rise and luxury condos, such as those in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and Tysons.

That is not to say there is a glut in condos for sale in Northern Virginia: They are selling. NVAR reports total condominium sales in January were up 30% from a year ago.

NVAR says increasing competition among buyers has reached a fever pitch, and it is likely to continue into the spring.

“Earlier this week, my buyer submitted an offer on a home in Fairfax and ended up in competition with 16 other offers,” said Heather Embrey, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Premier in Falls Church. “This isn’t unusual; it is the norm now-a-days.”

In the NVAR region, which covers Fairfax and Arlington counties, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, and the towns of Vienna, Herndon and Clifton, saw the median sales price increase 6.4% compared to a year ago last month, and the median time on market, or how quickly sellers accept a buyer’s contract, fell to just 13 days.

NVAR does not expect the overall market to slow, and it may even escalate more in coming months.

“As more people in our region receive the COVID-19 vaccine, it is likely that buyers and sellers who were staying out of the market in 2020 will have confidence that the time is right for them, too,” said Ryan McLaughlin, NVAR chief executive.

Below is a snapshot of the January home sales market in Northern Virginia:

The Northern Virginia housing market snapshot for January 2021. (Courtesy NVAR)
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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