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An 8-year review of the D.C. real estate market

A new year is a good time to look back, so in this column I am looking at various trends in District real estate for the last eight years. I chose eight years because 2009 is when the D.C. market hit its bottom and began the climb back up to the market where we find ourselves today, basically the market we have had since 2012.

Here I want to look at trends and statistics for 4 categories: active listings, sold listings, median sold prices and days on market (DOM). I’ll discuss each of these categories in this column.

Active listings. We have seen a decreasing number of active listings since 2009. This number dropped the most year-over-year in 2012 (by almost 33 percent!), when we began the current seller’s market. Since 2013, the number of active listings has only fallen or risen by plus or minus 100 listings each year, which has kept the market in a sustained state of limited inventory to sell. The average American used to sell their home every 4.9 years; since the Great Recession, that number climbed to every nine years. This is mainly due to uncertainty about the real estate market and about the larger financial markets. Additionally, in a situation of tight housing inventory, potential sellers are holding back because they are not sure they’ll be able to find a home they like as much as their current home. So it is not uncommon these days for sellers to find a replacement home first, and then to put their existing home on the market. In the greater DMV real estate market, we are not seeing much use of the buyer’s contingency to make the purchase of a new home contingent on the sale of their existing one. Selling their home is easy; it’s finding a new one to buy that’s difficult!

Sold listings and median sold prices. The number of sold listings has slowly risen the last 8 years, from the 500’s range from 2009-2012 to the 600’s range in 2013-2016. 2016 has been a good year for real estate sales; we saw the greatest number of active listings since 2012, and the greatest number of sold listings and the highest median sold prices since the real estate market recovery began in D.C. in 2009. The current median sold price in the District (as of December 2016) is $550,000.

Days on market (DOM). Days on market measure how long a property stays on the market before there is a contract on it. This measure is a good inverse indicator of how “hot” a real estate market is (i.e. the fewer the days on the market, the hotter the market). This number has fallen fairly steadily from around 50 DOM in 2009 to around 15 DOM in 2013. For the past three years, it has hovered between 14-15 DOM.

Two categories not represented here are also of interest:

Median price to original list price ratio. This measure is also an indicator of the competitiveness of real estate sales market. The closer to 100 percent (i.e. a home sold for its original list price), the more competition for sale properties there is. Since 2013, this ratio has hovered at or above 100 percent, with the winter months showing typically slight dips (but only by 1 or 2 percent).

Months of supply. This measure shows the time it would take to sell off the existing inventory of homes if no new listings were added to the market. The formula to calculate this figure divides the total number of homes for sale last month (active listings) by the number of home sold in that month (sold listings). For example, in December 2016, there were 1080 active listings and 632 sold listings. So, dividing 1080 by 632 gives us 1.70; that means it would take 1.7 months to sell off the December inventory if no new listings were added to the market. What does this measure signify? The lower the number, the quicker the sale time of the existing inventory of homes, and the more competition for those homes. Typically a three-month supply of homes indicates a balanced market between sellers and buyers, while less than 3 indicates a sellers’ market and more than 3 indicates a buyers’ market. At certain points in the District real estate market this year, there was a .75 month’s supply of homes!

So there you have it, an eight-year review of D.C. real estate statistics since the market recovery began. As I mentioned previously, we are still very much in a sellers’ market—largely because of the short supply of housing. But buyers, take heart: We’re seeing more new housing developments in and around the District. And if you buy within these next two months, you’ll be able to take advantage of the lowest prices of the year in the winter market. Happy hunting!

Original Article by Ted Smith from

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