Just because you can afford to buy a house in Arlington doesn’t make it any easier to buy there

Arlington, Virginia, is one of the most competitive housing markets in the country. And one of the most expensive.

Even house hunters with a comfortable home-buying budget who are looking in Arlington are finding it is not easy to buy there.

In January, active inventory, or the number of homes for sale in Arlington County, represented just a 0.74-month’s supply, one of the tightest markets anywhere in the country. What does “months’-supply” mean?

“Very simply put, what it means is there is very little housing inventory in Northern Virginia,” said Ryan McLaughlin, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. “The technical definition is it is the number of months it would take for the current inventory of homes for sale to sell at the current sales pace.”

In January, there were only 200 active listings on the market in Arlington County. Single-family homes are in the most demand, and the number of single family homes on the market in January was only 80.

All home types — single-family, town houses and condos — are in demand, and sell in Arlington County for an average of $450- to $500-per-square-foot. In 2023, homes that sold had been on the market an average of less than two weeks. NVAR reported that receiving multiple offers is still common for Arlington home sellers.

There were just 123 closed home sales in Arlington County in January, though that was up 17% from a year earlier.

All of Arlington County is competitive, with some areas more so than others.

“Areas like Clarendon, Virginia Square, Westover, Aurora Hills, Crystal City. They are very competitive. They’ve got great restaurants. They’ve got neighborhood feels, and high walk scores, and sought-after schools. Rosslyn and Ballston have had a huge resurgence,” McLaughlin said.

The Clarendon neighborhood had the highest median sold price in Arlington County in January, at $609-per-square-foot, almost $100-per-square-foot more than the next most expensive neighborhoods or Aurora Hills and Crystal City.

Tight inventory aside, Arlington still commands some of the highest prices in the D.C. metro. The median price in January was $645,000, 1.3% more than a year ago. And that wasn’t even the record. The Arlington record median price was $760,000 in December. When looking at average selling prices, which may include outliers that median prices smooth out, sales averaged almost $803,000 in January.

Anyone driving around residential neighborhoods in North Arlington and South Arlington will notice a lot of small, older houses with big new additions. Those owners already have their piece of Arlington, and are deciding to build up instead of buy up.

“That is one of the things we are seeing putting pressure on supply. Homeowners are staying in their homes longer. They’re deciding to remodel and expand. That is causing inventory constraints because that is one less home that goes on the market,” Ryan said.

Arlington County, just 26 square miles with a population of about 233,000, is attractive to commuters. It may be among the region’s smallest counties, but it has 11 Metro stations that include Orange, Silver, Blue and Yellow lines. And for those who drive, it is “just a few traffic lights to downtown D.C.,” McLaughlin said.

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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