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What rising home sales mean for the D.C. area

Friday - 5/24/2013, 10:22am  ET

HomeSales.jpg
For the market and for sellers, the rise of home sales shows glimmering signs of improvement. But for buyers, the low inventory and high demand can mean a headache in the purchasing process. (Getty Images/Bloomberg)

Rachel Nania, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Sales of homes in the U.S. are at their highest level in 3 years, rising 9.7 percent in the last 12 months. And the D.C. area is experiencing the same surge.

"The market is really, really busy and listings (in the D.C. area) are up 15.3 percent -- and I think that's the highest it's been in two years," says Amy Wease, realtor with Dwell Residential Brokerage.

For the market and for sellers, this number shows glimmering signs of improvement. But for buyers, the low inventory and high demand can mean a headache in the purchasing process.

Wease offers some insight and advice for homebuyers in the area.

What is the median home sale price in the D.C. area?

The median sale price is right around $400,000, and that's up about 7.7 percent, year over year -- and that's pretty strong. It's definitely more of a seller's market in the D.C. metro area. There are more buyers than there our houses, so when that happens, prices tend to go up and the competition gets higher.

What can a buyer expect to get for $400,000?

It really varies so greatly. You could get a single family home for $400,000, or you could get a studio in Dupont for $400,000. For example, I sold a row house in Petworth recently, and the price was right at 399,900. It was about 1,100 square feet, and it's considered single family, but it's attached. It has two bedrooms, two full baths and a yard.

Many homes are being purchased as soon as they are on the market, selling at a pace that's 45 percent faster than last year. Do you have any advice for homebuyers?

Because of this, buyers have to make decisions a lot more quickly. There's a general cycle in the market right now, where homes are coming on the market Wednesday or Thursday. Generally by Monday or Tuesday there are offers on homes. Pretty much the whole area is really competitive right now and buyers have to make really fast decisions. That is why we do a lot of prep work, upfront.

Going into the process, buyers need to ask themselves some questions.

  • What's your lifestyle?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • What's most important to you in a home?
  • How much money do you want to spend every month on a mortgage?
  • How much money do you want to put down?

    Buyers also need to find a lender and a program that works best for them prior to looking at homes so they can close very quickly. For sellers right now, they want the easiest transaction. They want to get a very qualified buyer.

    Another thing we suggest -- if you really love a home -- is to go ahead and do a pre-inspection before you submit your offer. A home inspection generally takes 5- 10 days after the contract is ratified, so a pre-inspection eliminates that contingency since you know what you're getting into. It just makes you a little more competitive.

    What else can buyers do to make the process easier?

    Buyers need to really do their research before they get out there. Pick your neighborhood and know what you're looking at. Another thing buyers need to do is be flexible -- be ready to go look at a home on a Tuesday evening.

    Stick to your list of non-negotiables and must-haves. That will keep you on track. Otherwise, you will spin your wheels. And don't be disappointed. It's typical to not get a first offer.

    Is it the time for homebuyers to strike a good deal?

    Things are going over asking price. Almost every contract I do right now is over asking price. In some areas, you are seeing a little more than others. I had a couple recently make an offer on a home in South Arlington and there were 21 other offers. The interest rates are really low, but the inventory is just not there.

    What are some of the areas that are the most desirable now with homebuyers?

    In D.C., I would say Capitol Hill -- what's called Hill East, the H Street corridor and Petworth. In Virginia, South Arlington, North Arlington, Del Ray, Old Town -- anything very close to the Metro. That's always been the case, but it's even more so now. There's this definite movement where people want to be close to where they grocery shop and where they work.

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  • US home sales tick up to highest in 3 years

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