Real Estate

DC Real Estate Cooled Off This Summer

Home prices and the number of sales decreased, while listings spent more time on the market.

As more Washingtonians fell back into pre-pandemic summer routines, so did the local real-estate market. Stats from multiple-listing service Bright MLS showed the market beginning to slow in July, and the latest data reveals that trend continued into August. The median sales price for the DC-metro area dropped 2.4 percent from July to August, the number of homes that went under contract fell 2.1 percent, and listings lingered for a day longer. This August was also much less frenzied than last August, with agents handling 17 percent fewer showings compared to a year ago.

It’s typical for activity to slow in the summer, when Washington empties out and many folks put big decisions on hold until fall. We simply didn’t get that break last year, thanks to pent-up buyer demand created by springtime Covid lockdowns, coupled with the fact that hardly anyone was traveling. Though the competition isn’t as crazy now, it’s not as if buyers can count on a bargain: Despite the calmer pace of the market, August 2021’s median price for the DC-metro area of $536,800 is still 6.3 percent higher than the median price a year ago.

However, prices have not risen equally everywhere. August’s median sales price in DC proper was $650,000, up only 0.4 percent compared to August 2020. Meanwhile, Montgomery County prices were up 14.6 percent to a median of $555,000; Prince George’s County prices were up nearly 10 percent to $390,000; and Fairfax County prices were up four percent to $603,000. Prices actually fell by 4.4 percent in Alexandria City to a median of $597,500, and in Arlington County by 8.4 percent to a median of $630,000.

Though agents expect inventory to grow as fall progresses, the number of properties for sale remains extremely low. According to Bright MLS, Washington had only 1.13 months’ worth of homes for sale in August. (A six-month supply—meaning it would take six months for the available inventory to run out—is considered a balanced market.)

So, what does this calmer market feel like in practice? One recent Bethesda buyer shares that the three homes he unsuccessfully bid on earlier this year all went for at least $150,000 over asking, while the house he just closed on escalated only $70,000 above list price.

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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 oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia.