Quarterly Real Estate Guide

Part II: Top Real Estate Pros Discuss the Market

(Monday, July 16, 2007 5:14 AM EDT

Sun Gazette reporters and editors Kristen Armstrong, Dave Facinoli, Kaitlin Hartnett, Rolly Strauss and Brian Trompeter surveyed top Realtors from the local area, asking them for opinions on the status of the Northern Virginia real estate market in the second half of the year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, responses varied significantly - from strongly bullish on the upcoming market, to pessimistic on the future.

Here are excerpts from the responses.

Caroline Rocco, associate broker, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, McLean: “Barring an unforeseen catastrophe, anything unexpected, if things stay the way they are now, we will inch up and have a fairly stable, medium-active market.”

Elizabeth Hajost, Realtor, Long & Foster, Great Falls: “It seems to me that the market is incredibly sensitive to value. It's like a living, breathing creature. When a home hits that magic point where buyers perceive it to be a fair value, they're ready to move. With homes that are overpriced or not in perfect condition, they're not even making low-ball offers. Buyers want to deal with sellers who are reality-based.”

Nancy Jo Powers, Realtor, Long & Foster, McLean: “Quite honestly, the market will remain healthy, if sellers price their property right and do what their agents tell them to do.”

Marianne Prendergast, Realtor, Long & Foster, McLean-Elm: “We are going around the corner on what I considered a minor slump that we've had the last two years. In my primary area of McLean, Great Falls, Vienna, Oakton and Arlington, we are basically going stronger than since the beginning of the year - there is demand, the buyers are out there, and a lot of the inventory has sold off in the last 60 days. I'm seeing a great market in the upper brackets now, which indicates to me there's a lot of confidence that wasn't there two years ago.”

John Steele, Realtor, Long & Foster, McLean: “Our experience is the market is robust. It's a higher buyer volume this year than last year. A lot of that business is from out of the area or with military and business relocations. I'm anxious to see what the August market will bring, as July has been very robust. I'm looking forward to a strong fall. Last year, December was really strong in terms of lending, which spilled over into purchases into January and February.”

Pat Derwinski, Realtor, Weichert, Realtors, McLean: “I think the market is going to remain sluggish. We may see a bit of a pickup after Labor Day. Traditionally, the market slacks off again from early to mid-November until the first of the year. People are thinking of the holidays. I see a tremendous oversupply of properties across the board - especially condominiums - and extremely cautious buyers. There's a lot for them to choose from and they're not making snap decisions. They are looking, looking and looking.”

Gilda Montel, Realtor, Exit Realty Talbot and Co.: “It's better than the crazy market we had two years ago. It was unfair to buyers. Everything was overvalued, which was great if you were selling at that point. I never felt comfortable with it, because everything was done in such a rush. People weren't thinking it over, and are suffering consequences from that today. I think we are going in the right direction.”

Laurie Mensing, Realtor, Long & Foster Realtors-McLean/Elm Street: “I think the market is going to remain flat, but there will be an upward turn as we go into 2008. I think the election year will have a huge effect on our market. There's always a [governmental] transition. Buyers are going to be more willing. They have been sitting and waiting for the market to drop and it's already dropped. We're not going to go any lower. Sellers have adjusted their prices to be realistic, and the buyers need to make their decisions and purchase.”

Karen Briscoe, a partner with the Huckaby Briscoe Group, part of Weichert, Realtors, McLean: “Good houses priced right are selling. The market for houses closer in, particularly McLean, is still strong, especially if they're under $2 million. Interest rates are still historically low. We see the market remaining steady through the rest of the year. The upper markets and the ones farthest out are the hardest hit. The over-$4 million market is the softest now.”

Bo Menkiti, CEO of The Menkiti Group Real Estate Team and operating partner for Keller Williams Capital Properties, Washington, D.C.: “What we're seeing here is a stabilization, a leveling-off. For the next six months, we'll see a flat market. We expect things to pick up in early 2008. We hope that interest rates will stay pretty stable, which will usher in the 2008 spring market. We hope to see some modest upward trajectory.”

Betty Lewis, associate broker, Long & Foster, Vienna: “I've had one of the best years in real estate I've ever had. It looks like its going to continue to be active for me, and I see the market picking up for a lot of agents. It will slow down as it normally does in the beginning of September when we begin our winter market. But overall, I think we're going to see a good bit of activity and it's going to be a good year.”

Patti Bostwick, Realtor, Long & Foster, Vienna: “People are waiting a little bit to see where prices are going to settle down. I think it's leveled off and going to stay this way until Jan. 2008. On the other hand, I just had a couple of listings that sold right away. It tells you that if you make the house really look great and just pop, because there is a lot of inventory you need to stand out and be special, it'll sell.”

Karen Martins, Realtor, McEnearney Associates: “The Market Watch concluded that the first half of the year was relatively strong in Fairfax, and I think that we will be just fine through the fall. In fact, we might even surprise people and be better than fine. We are definitely on the upswing from last year.”

Tony Cammarota, Realtor, Re/Max Distinctive: “It's generally an even market. There is not a great advantage for either buyers or sellers. There will be a little bit of a slowdown for the summer, but will probably pick up again around Labor Day, which is the second-best time of the year. Incomes are high, the population is growing and the market is strong. There will be more and more competition for properties close-by.”

Garnet Robins-Baughman, Realtor, Keller Williams: “I think the second half is going to be normal. Prices are holding steady, and as long as it's a fair and honest price, the market will continue in that vein. Overpriced properties will take longer to sell. We have more inventory than we're used to in sectors of Arlington, but not in all of them. There are buyers out there, and they're getting lovely homes at fair prices.”

Craig Lilly, Realtor, Prudential Carruthers: “We're getting some mixed signals. [The market] is going to remain flat, but a lot of people are expecting it to perk back up. I would like to see a recovery, but I don't think it's going to happen. It's dragging, and the number of foreclosures will increase into the year.”

Donna Moseley, Realtor, Prudential Carruthers: “I would love to be more optimistic, but we will continue to see reluctance in buyers. At the beginning of June, I would've said something different. Right now, there is going to be a lot of back-and-forth, and everyone is going to have to work very hard. Houses have to be well-presented and the best possible value property for the money.”

John McNamara, Realtor, Prudential Carruthers: “[The market] continues to be a challenge for sellers. Buyers are looking at two to three times the number of houses. Prices are continuing to flatten out because of perception of the market. More buyers are waiting for a better value before signing a contract. There are still bright spots, and homes that show well and are priced fairly continue to move.”

Dee Hester, Realtor, Keller Williams Arlington: “Arlington is always going to be good, because of location and the unbelievably low unemployment. On national news, they talk about how bad it is in other states, and it makes everyone believe that it's bad. The only thing is that sellers aren't getting as much money as they want, but we still see phenomenal prices and we still see houses selling. National figures don't really affect Arlington.”

Karen Burnett, Realtor, Long & Foster, McLean: “Possibly it will be a stronger market, because everyone is holding off on purchasing, so prices will come down.”

Kay Abell, Realtor, Long & Foster, McLean: “I believe we are still in the correcting phase. My advice is that while our real estate market is still striving to recover and regain a normalcy, these next six months will continue to be a very attractive time for buyers to be house-hunting. The housing supply is fairly large, the buyer demand is fairly limited - absolute ideal conditions to consider buying.”

Peggy Hamaker, Realtor, KDH Properties: “The market is going to hold pretty strong in Arlington. Things will keep moving forward. I'm feeling very positive; it's been a very good year so far. It hasn't been booming, but constant and steady, which is nice, because people have time to look and make decisions. There is no disaster, and the press should stop the perception that things are awful, because they aren't.”

Delk Hamaker, Realtor, KDH Properties: “I see things going down a little, but I hope that they'll pick up. Arlington will hold its own, but Northern Virginia will slow down a little, with rising interest rates.”

William Merriam, Realtor, Long & Foster: “If inventory stays down, next year will be successful. Our market is very strong, and the house and condo market inventory is down. It fluctuates, but it's not excessive. The market hasn't really accelerated in price, but houses that have been on the market for a while have been sold.”

Dede Brough, Realtor, Long & Foster: “The market is usually slower in July and August, because lots of people are on vacation. But I expect it to pick up in September, October and November. Inventory is good for buyers. They like having the choice of living in Arlington.”

Christina Wood, Realtor, Long & Foster: “[The second half] looks just as good as the first half. There are strong buyers out there, and they are looking diligently. It looks fine.”

Elyette Conein, Realtor, Long & Foster: “People are more careful, and the buyer will be more demanding. There is such an array of houses - our office alone has over 500 listings. We're not losing, but it will not be like it was three years ago, when they were going fast and we were down to five or six listings.”

Caroline Wilson, Realtor, Long & Foster: “I have a feeling that things are starting to slow down a bit, even more compared to last year. There are more houses on the market.”

Kathy Fong, Realtor, Keller Williams: “I'm seeing a really strong repeat of the early 1990s. I've seen it before, and agents who have been around a while know what it's like. Agents who have not experienced down markets are going to be frustrated, because of a lack of response to what's on the market. Condo sales are starting to flatten, and they can't sell houses easily. Certain markets continue to hold value and remain strong like Arlington, Northwest D.C. and other areas close to the Metro.”

Betsy Twigg, Realtor, Long & Foster: “The market will remain about the same. It's dropping off a little because of summer vacations, but by mid-August people come back into the market, and we have some people buying. The problem is that there are a lot of good houses available to buy. It should be pretty solid for the rest of 2007, and will drop off a little around Thanksgiving, as it usually does.”

Dave Aronheim, Realtor, Aronheim Group: “The market will continue to be soft, and we expect to have a number of micro-markets. If interest rates continue to go up, it will slow down more. It's not as good as it was in the first five years of the decade, when the market was hot, but it's not all that bad. It's still a good job market, although outlying markets will have more trouble as oil and gas prices go up.”

Tom Anderson, Realtor, Long & Foster: “For sellers, the second half will be in a ‘right price' market. If a property is listed at the price that makes it the best value in the price range, then it will sell quickly. The rest of the properties tend to remain on the market. In this slower market, I would encourage buyers to make an offer on a property they like. You never know what the seller's bottom line is.”

Emelia Beltran, broker, Nova Properties: “I don't think much is going to change at all. It gets worse and worse as you move farther and farther out. Closer in, people are looking, but they're taking their time because they're scared to buy - they're not in a hurry, not motivated. Property prices went up too fast, and beyond what the average person can afford. We don't have the inflation or the jobs to back up those prices. Our job is tough, and getting tougher all the time.”

Mitch Neaves, Realtor, Long & Foster: “I've seen a lot of great activity the last few weeks. People are ready and starting to buy. I'd say in the open houses I've had recently that the traffic is above average. July's been a very good month and it could be a very good fall. Hopefully prices on the properties won't go much lower, but right now, it's a good, fair market for both buyers and sellers. I hope that it stays that way, and I have a good feeling about the rest of the year.”

Vicky North, Realtor, Long & Foster: “The best thing I can say to both buyers and sellers is to expect more of the same, wherever they are. Summer is going to be quiet because summer is usually quiet, and fall will be more of the same.”

Roz Drayer, Realtor, Prudential Carruthers: “[The market] will stay relatively like it is now. People will buy at lower rates, and prices will continue to go down, but not drop off.”

Tiffany Miller, Realtor, Long & Foster, McLean: “The market will bring more happy home owners.”

Alice Newbill, Realtor, Long & Foster, McLean: “I don't look for it to go way down, like some do.”

Denise Sheehan, Realtor, W.C. & A.N. Miller: “The houses seem to be taking three to four months to sell. Places are selling and people are getting good prices. Most people want to be near the Metro or close in due to the volume of traffic around the area, and they want to be close to their jobs. But things are selling, even if they are reduced some. But everything is being sold. Buyers out there are a little edgy trying to make up their minds, but they are buying eventually. And we're still seeing multiple offers.”

Anna-Marie Termini, Long & Foster, Vienna/Oakton: “The Northern Virginia housing market is becoming more optimistic every week. For instance, the Greater Washington labor market grew by 53,000 jobs in April, taking the number six spot among major metro areas. Moreover, sellers are adjusting their prices and buyers are biting.”

Return to index of articles