Real Estate

Real-Estate Agents Dish on the Crystal City Buying Frenzy That Followed Amazon’s HQ2 Announcement

"I was flooded with calls that next day. Like, tons. Probably 85 percent were Chinese."
Image courtesy of JBG Smith.

Keller Williams agent Jordan Stuart had been trying to move a pair of condos at the Waterford House in Crystal City for months. But the building wasn’t generating much interest—it was older, with high monthly fees and a strict no-pets policy. He’d done maybe five showings of each unit. Then came November 13, 2018—the day Amazon announced it would build half of HQ2 in the neighborhood.

“I was flooded with calls that next day. Like, tons,” says Stuart. Almost all, he says, were from out-of-town investors. “Probably 85 percent were Chinese.”

Waterford House’s location on bland Crystal Drive had been nothing special before. But now it was nearly smack in the middle of the National Landing HQ2 site. Stuart pulled both condos off the market, then relisted them for about $20,000 more apiece. He added one very important detail in all caps: AMAZON HQ2.

Six offers rolled in on the one-bedroom unit, which sold for $450,000. Three came in on the two-bedroom, which closed at $574,000. One of the winning buyers, Stuart says, was “a prominent pro athlete” from another city. “They had a savvy financial adviser who called me directly and said, ‘This is who I represent. They want to invest in Amazon.’ ” A handful of units listed by other agents at Waterford House also sold immediately and for all cash, says Stuart.

TTR Sotheby’s agent Dawn Wilson felt the HQ2 craze, too. “My phone blew up,” she says. One of her listings—an Arlington condo about three miles from the Amazon site—had been on the market more than a month. The day after the HQ2 announcement, it went under contract for $306,500, or $8,500 above list price.

She had even better luck with a one-bedroom condo right in Crystal City, in a building a couple of blocks from Waterford House. She listed it for $324,900. On December 17, it went under contract for $355,000. Wilson won’t say precisely how many offers she got, only that it was “more than a few” and that her sense was that many came from investors.

The stats back up the anecdotal evidence of a feeding frenzy in the weeks following the HQ2 announcement. By the end of November, the number of listings under contract in the 22202 Zip code—which includes Crystal City and Pentagon City—was up by more than 121 percent, compared with November 2017. In December, closed sales there were up, year over year, by a staggering 137.5 percent, according to the real-estate data firm MarketStats by ShowingTime.

There is a limit, however, to how far buyers are willing to go. “We saw investors snap up properties and then relist them for more, trying to turn a quick profit,” says Redfin agent Brian MacMahon. “Some of these folks got a little too greedy.” He recalls one unit that sold for $610,000 on November 30 and was relisted a week later for $850,000. The seller eventually dropped the price to $695,000 before taking it off the market entirely. He points out another property that sold for $495,000 on November 19, then relisted for $599,000. The seller eventually dropped it to $550,000, and it finally went under contract in February.

Though agents say the call volume has waned since those heady days immediately following the HQ2 news, they still obviously see Amazon as a major selling feature. A quick online search yielded several listings touting their proximity to National Landing. For instance, a two-bedroom condo for $699,500 was advertised as “Adjacent to the new Amazon HQ2 . . . the hottest area in all of NOVA.” Long & Foster even launched a web page in February dedicated to HQ2 transplants, on which it touts itself as “The Prime Choice for Amazon Employees.”

Now that Amazon has pulled out of its other HQ2 site in Queens, Washington agents report they’re feeling even more bullish. Says Keller Williams’s Stuart: “I think people are really going to double down on Northern Virginia.

This article appears in the April 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She was previously a reporter for Legal Times and the National Law Journal. She has recently written about the Marriott family’s civil war and the 50-year rebirth of 14th Street, and reported the definitive oral history of the Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt case. She lives in Northeast DC with her husband, two dogs, and two cats.