Area home prices jump as housing market improves

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Photo - Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of Beautiful New House.
Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of Beautiful New House.
Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

The Washington region's housing market is red hot, with more homes getting snapped up mere days after going on sale.

While the area weathered the housing crisis better than much of the country, the past year saw an increase in sales prices and a decrease in time houses lingered on the market. Fewer houses are being sold compared with last year, meaning that more listings have multiple bidders that drive prices up.

"It's a competitive market, and it's getting worse," said Philip Gvinter, a Montgomery County-based real estate agent for Redfin. "Very, very few houses are making it beyond 20 or 30 days on the market."

Home sales in the D.C. region
Median sale price, 2012 Median sale price, 2011 Avg. days on market, 2012 Avg. days on market, 2011
Washington $430,900 $399,000 60 76
Montgomery County $367,125 $350,000 67 78
Prince George's County $170,000 $160,000 88 102
Fairfax County $422,000 $400,000 50 58
Arlington County $509,125 $490,000 53 61
Source: RealEstate Business Intelligence

Of the 51 houses Gvitner sold last year, 24 had multiple offers, he said. He saw the trend play out when helping clients buy as well - an open house in Bethesda was canceled due to the number of offers that came in almost immediately, while a house in the Germantown area picked up four offers in three days.

"Bethesda, you come to expect that - that's been the story for over a year now," Gvitner said. "But getting that out in the Germantown-Boyds-Darnestown area is certainly a surprise."

The Washington area's economy and housing market were

able to stay afloat through the recession thanks largely to jobs in government and industries that feed off the government. People are flocking to the region as its economy improves further -- D.C. reached its highest population level in 25 years in 2012. More residents means more need for housing, whether it's single family homes or apartments.

"It's been a much more stable job market," said Bonnie Casper, the 2012 president of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors. "No matter how low the interest rates are, if you don't have a job you're not going to be in the market to buy a house."

Relying on federal employment and spending, however, may lead to a downturn if the government starts cutting back.

"Some of the decisions that are going to be debated in Congress in terms of what the federal budget is going to be like are going to affect this region," said Peter Tatian, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute. "If there are cuts in federal spending, it's going to have consequences."

For now, sellers are happy to see bidding wars erupt with seemingly every other listing. Casper remembered noticing that multiple colleagues had been bidding on the same property, a fixer-upper near Gallaudet University in Northeast D.C. By the time it was sold, the house had more than 130 bids.

"I don't know if it needed some tender loving care or a good deal of work, but it was priced pretty low," she said. "By the time it sold, it was probably double the asking price."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner