Opinions Split on Whether Homes Market Has Bottomed Out

(Monday, July 21, 2008 7:37 AM EDT)
Has the Northern Virginia real estate market bottomed out and started to head back to health? Opinions are mixed among some of the region's top real estate professionals.

Brian Trompeter, Kristen Armstrong, Rolly Strauss and Dave Facinoli interviewed some top professionals to gather their insights into the current state of the local homes market.

Carol Temple, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Arlington: “I have seen a tremendous surge in buyer interest, starting about May. The buyers have lots of different profiles: first-time buyers, people moving into the area, and so forth and so on.”

Aaron Seekford, Arlington Realty: “No, we have not hit the bottom. But anytime you think you know where the bottom is, you've missed it.”

Joan Sellers, Weichert McLean/Old Dominion: “Especially inside the Beltway, I think we've seen prices stabilize, and within the next eight months we'll start to see it come back.”

Pat Shannon, Long & Foster Arlington: “I don't think it's bottomed out. While it was an incredibly busy first half of the year, and everything will go if it's priced right, it's not a rebound. We're stabilized, though. I don't think we're going to go down anymore. But it's not a rebound.”

Kim Sharifi, Weichert McLean: “I think we have bottomed out. I'm busier with buyers in June and July than the whole rest of the year. It started around April, May, people started looking more seriously.”

Scott Shawkey, Weichert McLean Center: “We did bottom out. It started in the spring, especially for homes that were good values and priced right and ready to move into. I still see new construction going up and new homes coming on the market.”

Barbara Simon, McEnearney Arlington: “To say the Northern Virginia market [has bottomed out] is too broad. We've seen some activity, but we're in the dog days of summer, which is slow. Cautiously, we'd say it is true for some areas. But it's localized. I would agree with that.”

Cristina Sison, Re/Max Allegiance Arlington: “It has bottomed out in certain [close-in] areas of Northern Virginia. I have 12 listings and put the prices down 10 percent, and I have seven contracts on them. That's an indication it's reached the bottom part. In Arlington, it's still moving, and if I price it right, I will have 10 or 15 buyers waiting.”

Hope Skilling, McEnearney, McLean: “Activity has picked up in terms of buyers sitting on the fence, [but for] some of my listings on the market for a while, even though their pricing was low, offers were coming in lower. Starting around June, most agents would tell you activity has picked up. We're close to the bottom, if not at the bottom.”

Beth Slucher, Long & Foster Vienna/Oakton: I'm afraid I'm going to sound more dismal than most - I really think we're not at the bottom.”

Lisa Smith, McEnearney McLean: “I believe it's probably close to the bottom, and a rebound hasn't started. Some of the closer-in areas are getting multiple contracts on houses, so certain areas are starting the recovery process. We have realistic buyers and realistic sellers now.”

Leanne Spencer, Weichert Arlington: “It's property-by-property and where it is located. You can't broad-brush Northern Virginia. I recently had contracts within 48 and 72 hours. A desirable property, where the seller has listened to the guidance, gotten the house in good condition to sell, sells quickly. Inventory in Arlington has come down.”

John Steele, Long & Foster McLean/Dolley Madison: “This is so hard to peg. The slope of the curve is flat. We have come down or lost ground. It's flattened: that's my experience in what I'm selling, within the past four months in the areas I spend most of my time with my clients.”

Jisue Sue, Long & Foster Tysons: “It depends on the areas, in some places it hasn't yet. But in Fairfax it has, we're somewhat busier now, and next year we'll be busier and we'll see some bouncing back. I'm having a really good year, with multiple contracts, so I cannot say it is a bad market at all.”

Jake Sullivan, Re/Max Allegiance McLean: “The market has kind of leveled off. It's not going to go down anymore, but it's certainly not going up. Inside the Beltway it's a level playing field but has not changed into a buyers' market yet. But it's still a good market.”

Eileen Summers, Long & Foster Great Falls: “I'm hoping that it's bottomed out but I'm still seeing drops in pricing. Again, it's dependent on the price range and area. Some are definitely doing better than others.”

Sally Swanson, Long & Foster McLean/Dolley Madison: “Northern Virginia is a broad area, and I don't think we've seen the bottom yet in certain areas. It depends on the product you're selling, and the neighborhood, and if they're priced well. This is the third down cycle I've been through, and the Realtor has to know how to market, and the experienced Realtor does best. What we're getting with this down market is improved Realtors.”

Michelle Sagatov, Fall Properties Arlington: “Once areas get rid of bank-owned foreclosure properties, I really think things will start picking up. Right now it's a buyer's market.”

Sherry Schaffer, Long & Foster Arlington: “Inside the Beltway, the market is doing very well. Buyers are out there, because there are good deals and the interest rates are good.”

Mary Schrodt, McEnearney McLean: “Although always an optimist, the continued lack of consumer confidence is keeping buyers with the brakes on. I don't see a full recovery until the economy improves. We may have hit bottom, price-wise, but the number of contracts in close-in areas shows me we are not moving forward. But, I will add, it's a great time to buy.”

Kate Ryan, Long & Foster McLean: “The market is close to the bottom if not at the bottom. I think it is stabilizing. We are seeing multiple contracts and renewed faith, and a sense of security that buyers have.”

Debra Rubin, Long & Foster Great Falls: “I don't know and I don't think anybody knows, but I sure hope it has bottomed out.”

Mercedes Robinson, Long & Foster Arlington: “I think we are getting real close to the bottom. A lot of good things are happening.”

Ann Romer, Weichert McLean: “It definitely hasn't bottomed out in the outlying areas, but it probably has in the close-in areas like Vienna, Arlington and McLean.”

Caroline Rocco, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage McLean: “I think it is at the bottom, and will probably stay stagnant for a while before it turns around. But I don't think the prices will go any lower.”

Ann Shirey, McEnearney Arlington: “I think there is a rebound going on, and it started in the last six weeks.”

Jim Shirey, McEnearney Arlington: “I work in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The rebound started about mid-May.”

Lucille Ryan, Avery Hess Dunn Loring: “I think if the market hasn't yet hit bottom it is very close. There is a little more calming influence now, and the prices aren't dropping as much as they were.”

Said Zangeneh, Weichert Great Falls: “I believe it depends on where you stand, on where you are located. I would say [one could expect to see the rebound] after six or seven months, when no more drops have occurred.”

Steve Wisemiller, Re/Max Allegiance Arlington: “Real estate is locally based . . . [For example] when you look at Northern Virginia, the market has stabilized. Over time, it will become more fluid and go on the upswing again.”

Bradley Winkelmann, Re/Max Allegiance Arlington: “I believe that the market has reached a state of equilibrium - it will stay level before it begins to climb. It'll take sometime to absorb inventory. Within a year, there should be gradual gains.”

Ann Wilson, Re/Max Allegiance Arlington: “Yes, I agree the market has bottomed out - particularly in Arlington. I'm not sure that Arlington will ever really experience [a drop].”

Rowena Wolf, Long & Foster Great Falls: “I don't completely agree with that. I think that it'll be a while just because of the inventory. But I do think there is an interest in the market. People are always interested, but I wouldn't call it a strong market.”

Ingrid Wooten, Long & Foster Arlington: “I think the market has definitely picked up in several Northern Virginia areas sometime this spring. Houses that are priced right and staged well sell fast, in Arlington, and as far as Vienna, some houses are even getting multiple bids. Escalation clauses have become part of some offers again, and yet even then the buyers might not succeed.”

Deborah Whitaker, Long & Foster Great Falls: “I do think it has bottomed out, but I'm not sure the rebound has started. I have seen an upsurge in the last month, as far as people looking at properties and things going under contract.”

Amy Shafer, Re/Max Allegiance Arlington: “I do think that [the market] is on the rise. There's still a lot of inventory on the rise that needs to be cleaned out. The Arlington market statistically is strong. It has improved. But the outer markets, parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties, are still struggling. I view this year as a cleaning-up year.”

Nick Kuhn, McEnearney Arlington: “What I've noticed is lots of increased activity in close-in properties in Arlington and Alexandria. Traditionally, summer is a slower season, but I am seeing lots of activity now. I'm seeing the market rebounding. Some properties are getting multiple contracts.”

Robin Waugh, Weichert McLean: “It's an unusual real estate market at the moment. I think that for houses that are well-priced and obviously in beautiful condition, buyers are very, very careful and thoughtful and deliberate. They're taking their time. I don't know if we've bottomed out or not. I don't think the buyers think we have bottomed out, and they're the ones who drive our market. Sellers can't sell their houses for anywhere near where they thought they would be selling them.”

Tom Wartha, Re/Max Xecutex Oakton: “I saw a dramatic change in the number of sales in April, maybe 2,600 to 2,700 homes selling in Northern Virginia. We haven't seen these kinds of numbers since May of 2006. This [upward trend] has maintained itself through May and June. However, the average sales price has dropped 8 to 10 percent. It's not a recovery situation. Prices are still going down, and inventory is higher than what it needs to be.”

Dayna Wagner, Long & Foster Arlington: “I think we're probably very close to bottoming out, but we're not quite yet there. I'm optimistic that next year we'll see things bottoming out, and then a rebound.”

Dianne Van Volkenburg, Weichert Great Falls: “I think [the downturn] is going to continue for a little while longer. There's so much bad press out there that buyers are hesitant to write offers. From the buyers' perception, the market is still coming down. I think it's a fabulous time to purchase.”

Kenneth Tully, Re/Max Preferred Vienna: “I think we have hit the bottom. We have micro-markets, areas such as Oakton, which are very strong right now. Areas like Sterling aren't doing so well. It's hard to determine a bottoming-out without specifying an area. We're seeing multiple offers again in the entry-level price range, from $180,000 to $250,000.”

Kelly Tierney, Re/Max Distinctive Arlington: “It's dependent on the property, its condition and location. Some homes are very desirable, while others are sitting. There are multiple offers on some homes, while on others there isn't even a low offer.”

Casey Thompson, Weichert Great Falls: “I don't think anybody really knows. [The downturn] started out as a much-needed price correction two years ago. There was a time, after the first year, when I thought it had hit bottom. But it's much deeper. In the spring, there was a little improvement in the market. But as the summer has gone on, we'll have a couple of weeks when there's more activity, then a couple of weeks when there's nothing going on. It's been very erratic. The one reason I'm encouraged is still there are areas that are moving well, such as Arlington.”

Return to index of articles