Dramatic autumn slowdown in DC housing market

The D.C.-area housing market has been slowing since summer, and the drop-off in activity in October was a wake-up call for sellers. There aren’t many buyers right now.

“The slowdown for the Washington, D.C.-area housing market in October was dramatic. We saw a year-over-year decline in sales activity that was a bigger drop than we saw back when the pandemic hit. Back then, we saw sales grind to a halt, but the decline we saw in October was even more dramatic than that,” said listing service Bright MLS Chief Economist Lisa Sturtevant.

Across the metro area, closed sales in October were down 35.6% from a year ago. Pending sales were down 40.7%. The average days on the market before a seller got a contracted buyer last month were 15 days, almost a week longer than a year ago.

Home showings by real estate agents in October were down 42.7% from a year ago. Median selling prices were still higher than a year ago, but just 2.8%.

Sellers are sitting on the sidelines, perpetuating the ongoing shortfall of homes for sale in the D.C. area.

“We are seeing low inventory across the Washington area, and particularly in the close-in suburbs and the District itself. We are seeing a little bit more of an expansion of inventory in some of the farther-out suburbs where the market has slowed even further,” Sturtevant said.

The number of active listings in Alexandria is down 25.6% from a year ago. Active listings in Loudoun County rose by more than 50% compared to October 2021.

For the year ahead, Bright MLS said prices will undoubtedly fall from their peaks, but even with a drop of 10% to 15%, prices would still be higher than they were before the pandemic.

Mortgage rates are likely to fall sooner rather than later too. Even though it’ll be volatile for a while, rates should come down after the first of the year, Sturtevant said.

What is happening in the housing market — in good times and bad — is largely only of interest to people buying, or homeowners selling. But for homeowners who have been and continue to be perfectly content to stay put, the market has been good to them.

“They have seen the value of their home, the equity in their home, really rise considerably over the last few years or so. So homeowners who don’t want to move are in a very, very good position right now,” Sturtevant said.

Below is a list of median selling prices across the metro area:

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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