The tug-of-war between supply and demand in Loudoun County’s hot housing market is getting even more heated.
The number of homes on the market locally has declined for the 36th consecutive month, dipping to the lowest recorded inventory in more than a decade. That low supply has pulled the county’s median home sale price to $500,000—the highest on record, according to the Dulles Area Association of Realtors’ latest report.
Husband-and-wife team Ryan and Megan Clegg, with Atoka Properties, said the market has created a stalemate between buyers and sellers.
“In a lot of cases, sellers can get unrealistic about the value of their houses and buyers want what they want for a steal,” Ryan Clegg said. “There are tons of buyers right now, but they’re not going to buy unless they feel like they’re getting value.”
Homebuyers have more information about the market than they ever have before. They can scan what’s on the market from their smart phone via Zillow, Redfin and other apps, and they’ve watched a slew of home improvement shows on Bravo and HGTV that can set unrealistic expectations.
“Buyers are more savvy and educated than ever,” Megan Clegg said. If they find a listing that fits all their criteria, but their research tells them it’s priced a little too high, they won’t take action. “But once it’s priced where they think is fair it creates this sense of urgency and buyers know to hurry if they want it.”
On the flip side, many sellers aren’t willing to budge on their price because they know inventory is low and prices are at record highs. The Cleggs have seen a few sellers reluctant to lower their price because they want a return on any upgrades they made to the home over the years.
“We remind sellers that the market dictates your value. So you can have an appraisal that might help you set the price, but if you don’t get an offer you’re probably not at the right price,” Megan Clegg said.
“The line we get a bunch is ‘but we’re in the wealthiest county, surely they can pay this,’” Ryan Clegg said. “But buyers still want value.”
“A home priced right will sell quickly in this market,” said Jay Thomas, a Realtor with Keller Williams.
Lower inventory means more potential buyers looking at the 1,207 homes that are on the market in Loudoun right now. Families who want to buy are busy looking even in August, when the market typically quiets down ahead of a new school year. The Cleggs recently hosted an open house for a home that had been on the market 21 days and had more than 30 parties stop by—more than they’ve ever seen at an open house.
The low inventory has real estate agents changing their tactics, Thomas said. Many are placing a “coming soon” sign in a home’s front yard a month before putting it on the market.
“Agents have gotten savvy over the last year and a half … a ‘coming soon’ sign creates this sense of urgency to get it under contract before it’s on the market and advertised to the masses,” he said.
That’s a good strategy for those looking to sell quickly. Thomas recently sold two homes that way. “That’s kind of the new norm,” he said.
But, he added, each seller has different needs. He recommends that those who are willing to wait a bit put their home on the market and let the market decide the price and, best case scenario for any seller, spark a bidding war.
Kristen Haken knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the market. It took her a year to find just what she and her husband were looking for when they moved from Dumfries to Loudoun County. As she scanned Redfin.com and Homesnap.com, she felt like every home was similar—a decent size but outdated.
“We were looking for something more move-in ready and the homes we found on the market were not,” she said. “It was a little discouraging for a while.”
With the help of the Cleggs and Atoka Properties, they found a farmhouse near Round Hill with modern finishes and plenty of space. “It’s very homey feeling—it’s just us,” Haken said. “It’s like the builder picked all the finishes on this house with our dreams in their minds.”
It’s hard to pinpoint what’s to blame for so few homes on the market and so many people looking to buy in Loudoun. Thomas suspects some people are waiting for Loudoun’s Metro stations to open or waiting to see if Amazon decides to build its East Coast headquarters here before selling their homes. Plus, the county’s population continues to grow by about 30 people per day, all needing a place to call home.
“There’s a lot of factors in play,” Thomas said. “I just hope we stay healthy and not revert back to the bubble and burst again.”
The prices now peaked at an all-time high have some in the industry having flashbacks to the market’s crash in 2008. But Thomas describes the uptick in home prices—increasing between 4 and 6 percent annually—as pretty healthy.
“I’m hopeful anyway.”