In the DC Housing Market, Winter is the New Spring
In a typical year, the housing market ebbs and flows, with activity usually peaking in the spring and fall, dipping in the summer, and plummeting in the winter.
However, in the DC region, every season seems like spring these days.
"I think if you look at traditional cycles, those have really gone by the wayside, especially over the last nine months since Covid has been rearing its ugly head," Chris Masters, Executive Vice President of McWilliams|Ballard (MWB), told UrbanTurf.
Masters shared that units at two northern Virginia developments MWB launched in the summer and late fall are pre-selling at a faster-than-normal pace of one unit every 2-3 days.
That demand is perhaps even greater in the existing home sales market.
"We’ve seen early spring markets in years past but 2021 is a culmination of several factors," Washington Fine Properties agent Liz Mandle wrote to UrbanTurf. "Buyer demand wasn’t satiated in 2020, more residents are committing to staying in DC, the political climate has calmed a bit and the pandemic continues to highlight how important home is."
Mandle said a condo she listed in Logan Circle recently went under contract within hours of hitting the market. One of her clients competed for a listing just outside DC proper that received 18 offers. She noticed last year that once everyone adjusted to the pandemic, the spring market didn't simmer down the way it does normally.
"With fewer buyers leaving the area for vacations over the summer and residents continuing to find ways to improve their home life as the pandemic dragged on, the market really never slowed," Mandle explained.
And the data supports this.
"From June to December 2020, average closing activity was up 17 property units in DC compared to the previous two years," Brian Donnellen, President & CEO of Bright MLS, explained to UrbanTurf. "In previous years, you would see a seasonal decline in that same time period, following the typical spring rush.”
Both Mandle and Masters attribute the season-less market, in part, to low interest rates. For new condos, those interest rates have made buying more attractive than renting for people who don't plan on staying in the area very long — after all, they can just rent the unit out once they relocate.
Mandle said that low inventory is also contributing to the movement in the market, so she doesn't advise her sellers to wait for a certain time of year. A recent report found that the supply of homes for sale in the DC region was at its lowest point on record in December.
This lack of supply could be partly due to sellers waiting for spring. Compass vice president Peggy Ferris told UrbanTurf that some would-be sellers want to wait because they don't feel comfortable being in the house while it's on the market due to Covid. Ferris and her agents have been feeling the frustration of the dearth of inventory with their buyer clients in Upper Northwest DC and Montgomery County.
"Everything has multiple offers," Ferris told UrbanTurf, noting that houses are going under contract so quickly that some buyers aren't able to get in and see them. She pointed to a home that recently went on the market in Colesville near the Intercounty Connector. Within three days, it garnered 15 offers.