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|
|Prince George's County||$170,000||$160,000||88||102|
|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."