This $39 billion industry is Northern Virginia’s silent economic driver

One of Northern Virginia’s largest economic drivers is often overlooked: the residential real estate market.

The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis have recently released a report, “The Economic Contributions of the Northern Virginia Housing Industry,” that puts some hard numbers on it.

“For all of Northern Virginia, the residential real estate industry contributed $38.7 billion in economic activity,” said Ryan McLaughlin, CEO of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. “That’s a huge number. It supported over 187,000 jobs.”

Residential real estate boosted Northern Virginia’s gross regional product by $22.4 billion in 2023, and increased labor income by $12.9 billion. Local jurisdictions received $791 million in revenues related to economic activity in the residential real estate market.

The Northern Virginia market is not slowing. While sales nationwide in April were 1.9% lower than a year earlier, sales in Northern Virginia were up 13.5% from a year earlier and jumped 36% from March.

The strong housing market in Northern Virginia is driven in part by the D.C. region’s continued growth in attracting new employers, especially in industries such as technology and government contracting. But the median price of a home that sold in Northern Virginia topped $750,000 in April, and rising prices run the risk of making the region less attractive.

“Housing has a huge impact on our economic viability and attraction as a region,” McLaughlin said. “As housing prices continue to rise, we have to be concerned about affordability, and the willingness of companies to invest in the Northern Virginia region.”

Housing prices carry significant weight for companies and the employees they hire, or their employees looking to relocate.

“While quality of life, pleasant climate and recreational amenities all play a part in attracting and retaining working households, the crucial factor affecting the marketplace is housing dynamics — the availability, quality, type and cost of housing, especially for young family households,” said Terry Clower, director for the Center for Regional Analysis at GMU’s Schar School of Policy and Government.

The full report from NVAR and GMU on the economic contributions of the Northern Virginia housing market is online.

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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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