Being a Realtor in the Northern Virginia area we don’t need an icebreaker. Any event or place I attended irrespective they are in the market to buy or sell a home; friends or a stranger wants to know what is going on with the Fairfax and Loudoun County real estate market in Northern Virginia.
Across the country many of the high profile real estate market like Seattle, Los Angles have slowed down in 2018. I am no expert for those regions but I can share what is going on in the Northern Virginia real estate market.
Bullish outlook of the Northern Virginia Housing Market:
1. Unemployment rate- Just like any other major metropolitan city DC metro area has a strong unemployment rate. This has been the trend for close to a decade and no sign of slowing down. Having Amazon in Northern Virginia may help but we are not solely relying on that employer to call it a home. From my recent attendance to the economic summit the Northern Virginia unemployment rate was at 2.4% while the national average in August 2018 was at 3.9%.
2. Income: My counter argument everytime someone says we have a bubble I say look around and we have high-income jobs in the area. With a strong income and low unemployment rate, Northern Virginia is a good marriage!
3. Best Place to live: We have all heard for a while Loudoun and Fairfax County are the richest counties in the country. Another feather to brag is recently Time named Ashburn, Virginia was named as one of the best places to live. We were number 30 in 2018 as per Time archived article. So, my millennium buyers who are planning to have a work-life balance Northern Virginia may be for you!
4. Low-Interest rate: I know you may think I am kidding you with my spiel on the interest rate. I have family members with over 4 decades of homeownership and I have personally owned a home almost two decades seen the industry interest rates from the high and low end. Did you know the interest rate in 1981 was at 18.63% and lowest we went was 3.31% in 2012? Now you can counter argue a 4.5%-5% isn’t a normal market rate?
5. Tight Labor Market: Being a Realtor who meets people from all walks of life and career. Speaking with my clients, customers, friends, and strangers many have affirmed they cannot find the right people to fill a position in technology, healthcare, marketing and various all levels of position in the area. DC was ranked #5 in the top job market.
Bearish outlook of the Northern Virginia Housing Market:
1.College Debt: This is #1 reason why we read reports on millennium buyers putting off the home purchase decision. Many parents who have drawn money from the home equity they have is used to help the kids with college loans. Now, these homeowners are stuck working for longers and staying put in the house they own.
2. Political Environment: DC metro is sensitive to the political environment. We do get impacted in the year we have major local or national election. So 2018 and 2020 may have the reminiscence of the political anxiety. We have seen a sluggish in our fall 2018 real estate market which reflects very similar to 2016 Oct. -Dec market and suddenly we have a crazy housing demand in 2017.
3. Income growth: This may be counter-argument to my statement earlier made about high income in the Northern Virginia area. However, the income and cost of living in the area are high (not as high as West Coast or NY) our incomes have not risen in past few years. This may reduce the purchasing power of home buyers in the Fairfax and Loudoun County. Consumer confidence may be weak due to certain uncertainty.
4. Tight Inventory: We all have heard housing crisis due to tight inventory especially during peak spring market in Northern Virginia and across the country. There are numerous reasons that lead to the tight inventory.
A. Homeowners have taken loans to help their kids pay student loans are staying put where they live. So, their homes are not going on the market anytime soon.
B. New Construction due to the ever-increasing cost of land, material and tight labor market new construction sales have slow down. Builders are not setting up the sales community at a rate they use a decade ago. The Loudoun County home builders are not willing to wait rather than negotiate on the price of the home. Plus many buyers have the anxiety of interest rate and turning their head away from buying a new construction home in Fairfax or Loudoun County.
C. Homeowners who want to move up into a larger home cannot find a right home. Hence their home is not listed on the market until they have something to move in. Another flipside to this crisis is many of the sellers are not willing to accept the home of sale contingencies when they have buyers without any contingency option.
D. With the rise of interest rate or lack of inventory, many homeowners are deciding to stay put and improve their home rather than sell.
5. Local Issues: Northern Virginia is known for attracting labor force, however, being a Northern Virginia resident for over two decades I can personally say our infrastructure to schools cannot handle the fast growth. Many of my young families are frustrated with long commute hours, lack of public transportation, taxes and the high cost of living in the area. Many don’t see Northern Virginia as their long-term place to live.
Bottom line: My take always has been we are not expensive real estates markets like San Francios or Seattle or New York. Northern Virginia real estate market has all the conditions to grow and sustain the stable housing market in the years to come. Like any other investment let real estate be part of it. At the end of the day, you will need a shelter. Whether you pay in terms of mortgage or rent. Real estate has never been a fast cash out investment. It is an emotional and biggest investment of your lifetime. Built a nest and create memories!