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Fuller Confirms ‘On-Ground’ Reports of Housing Rebound

realestatesignIn an exclusive interview with the News-Press yesterday, Dr. Steven Fuller, the renowned director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, confirmed on-the-ground reports from area realtors when he said that residential housing prices are on a strong rebound track, especially inside the Beltway.

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A HOUSE UNDER CONTRACT on James Court in Falls Church’s Winter Hill. Home sales in the City of F.C. are up sharply compared to one year ago. (Photo: News-Press)

In an exclusive interview with the News-Press yesterday, Dr. Steven Fuller, the renowned director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, confirmed on-the-ground reports from area realtors when he said that residential housing prices are on a strong rebound track, especially inside the Beltway.

Dr. Fuller, just back yesterday from London,  was slated to be the keynote speaker this morning in a forum entitled, “This Region Is Climbing Out of a Recession: Learn How,” hosted by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors in Herndon.

Fuller previewed his comments in a telephone interview with the News-Press, saying that the housing markets in Northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area overall “are continuing to improve,” with Northern Virginia being the strongest driver of the trend.

”We’ve come a long way from a year ago,” he said, “Although it will be a slow, lumpy recovery.” He said the nadir of the market was April 2008, and that sales have improved each of the last two years since then. “Prices have stabilized and are on the rise and days that homes stay on the market have gone down,” he said. “This holds true for single family detached homes, town houses and condos.”

On average, prices are up 11 percent from a year ago in the region, he said, and that there is more “trading up” now occurring. But, he noted, since home prices dropped as much as 32 percent on average in some areas, the full recovery will be slow, with this year’s 11-percent rise followed by slower 5-to-7 percent rises through 2015.

According to the Metropolitan Region Information Services (MRIS), average home prices in Falls Church (22046 zip code) were up by 9.06 percent in the first quarter of 2010 over last year, to $533,100. The 22 homes sold represented a 69.23 percent increase, and the sale prices came in at 97.3 percent of asking prices.

MRIS numbers were also strong for 22043 (McLean) with prices up 7.46 percent for a $467,000 average, and 65 home sales (up 38.3 percent) averaging 41 days on the market and getting an average 97.4 percent of the asking price.

For 22042 (Sleepy Hollow), the MRIS numbers show, prices were up 16.1 percent to an average $360,600 as 86 homes were sold  (down 27.1 percent) staying an average 42 days on the market and yielding an average 97.2 percent of the asking price.

MRIS President and CEO David Carron wrote in MRIS’ first quarter “Trends in Housing” that “prices continue to show signs of a moderate recovery,” while “days on the market continue to decline,” “the ratio of inventory to sales continues to decline,” and “the gap between buyer and seller demands is closing.”

In Fairfax County, overall, the MRIS report said, home prices rose 11.7 percent from March 2009 to March 2010, compared to Montgomery County, where prices fell 3.1 percent, and Prince George’s County, where they fell 17.6 percent.

Fuller said that, although slower, the same improving trend in Northern Virginia will occur, going forward, for commercial as well as residential real estate in Northern Virginia. “The big crash is behind us,” he said. “There are still some really good deals out there, and maybe some fire sales, but by and large, the adjustments are over, and there will be moderate improvement and a slow recovery ahead” for commercial real estate, he said. The market for office space will not heat up until 2013, he predicted, after the jobs are all back that were lost in the Tysons Corner area, which won’t be for another year.

Fuller said that the 16,000 new government and government-contract related jobs created in Northern Virginia in the last year is way above the average of 2-4,000 normally, but that its hard to tell how many of those jobs are Census-related. “They’re listed as full-time jobs, but for only a couple months.”

The rate of federal government spending growth runs the risk of a major readjustment, however, once the federal deficit issues come seriously into play in 2012 and 2013, Fuller said, predicting it will take take 30 years for the Tysons Corner area to “achieve its full potentials.”

All of what Fuller said about the rebound in the regional housing market was affirmed in spades by area realtors in comments to the News-Press this week.

Just as it was realtors “on the streets,” as it were, who knew far ahead of any official analysis that the housing market was about to nosedive in 2005, when the News-Press ran a prophetic editorial, “When the Bubble Bursts,” so now it is realtors, again, who are strongly signalling that a real rebound is underway, at least for Falls Church and environs inside the Beltway.

“Things are hoppin’ in Falls Church City,” Long and Foster realtor Bethany Ellis told the News-Press in an interview this week, echoing sentiments of other area realtors, including Stacy Hennessey and Leslie Hutchison of Re/Max Distinctive, who reported on the strong Falls Church market in the News-Press earlier this spring.

Now, Ellis is joined by Tori McKinney and Kim Maller, both of the Keller Williams Realty, both attending the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday, who had similar things to say about how well the residential real estate market is going now in Falls Church and the surrounding area.

There’s also a consensus among all of them that the Falls Church School System is a major factor in families seeking to relocate in the 22046 zip code.

“Anyone looking to buy here now had better be prepared for competition,” Ellis said, noting that multiple offers on the same home are now becoming normative, often driving the price above the seller’s asking price.

While there are few listings in Falls Church below $500,000, she said that homes in the $500,000-$800,000 range are moving the fastest.

“The fact is, there is not a lot of inventory in Falls Church, and that is good for sellers,” she said, noting that a growing number of people who’d been renting in Falls Church are now out looking to buy.

“Homes that are priced right and are in selling shape are selling instantly,” said McKinney, who pitches herself offering “rock star” service. Maller concurred. A 14-year resident of Falls Church, Maller’s slogan is, “Falls Church is my home town, let me make it yours.”

Ellis, in her ad in the News-Press last week, notified readers, “I still have a number of families who are looking to buy in 22043 and 22046. Please call or email me to see if your home is ready for my buyers.”

She showcased a Seaton Lane location in the City that was sold for $30,000 above the list price.

Meanwhile, realtors Merelyn Kaye of McEnearney Associates and Louise Molton of Weichert each pitched $1 million-plus homes in the City in their News-Press ads last week, while Rosemary Hayes Jones of Long and Foster pitched a $925,000 City listing.

J.D. Callander of Weichert listed a $1.3 million McLean and $944,000 listing in 22042. The Hutchison-Hennessey team showed three $1 million-plus listings north of Falls Church in the McLean/Tysons area.

McKinney advertised two City listings at $650,000 and $850,000, and the “Gaskins Team” of Weichert’s Will Gaskins and Andy Biggers advertised a $785,000 City listing. Suzanne Fauber ran her ad without any specific listings.

Ellis told the News-Press that schools are the top consideration prospective buyers have coming to the City, along with proximity to places they like to visit, such as the Farmer’s Market and public library, “all the amenities of Falls Church,” she said.

But she stressed that the same factors also apply to the City’s neighboring 22043 zip code that includes McLean, where she lives.

“The same factors exist there, good schools, such as Haycock Elementary, Longfellow Middle School and McLean High School, and great neighborhoods,” she said.

Ellis adds that it will stay hot through the summer, as well, as families want to be in their new homes by the time school starts in September.

She also cited North Arlington and other neighborhoods, where the market is moving far better than outside the Beltway. While housing problems persist in Prince William, Loudoun and parts of Fairfax County, she said, “the number of foreclosure and short sales have gone way, way down” in Falls Church and its immediate environs.

How do people find out about Falls Church and its schools? There are a multitude of ways, the realtors agree, including word of mouth, friends, on line, including sites such as “GreatSchools.com,” general notoriety given the excellence of the school system and, of course, through advertising in the News-Press.

“My ads really work in the News-Press,” McKinney stood Tuesday to tell everyone attending the Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Business strategist Dale Little, the speaker at the monthly event was touting cutting edge marketing strategies, including the “social media” of the Internet, when Sally Cole, executive director of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, cited the importance of good local newspapers, such as the News-Press, prompting McKinney’s glowing endorsement.

It was noted that two of the News-Press most loyal advertisers, realtors Kaye and Jones, have placed their ads in every since edition of the News-Press since the paper’s founding in 1991, because of its proven results it has provided for them.

The combination of a real estate ad with a news story in the News-Press about the excellence of the City’s schools, or other strong points of the community, is a perfect one for selling property in the City, it was also noted. “In the News-Press, you are not only getting your ad in there, but it is surrounded by news that makes people want to be a part of this community. That helps to sell them on buying here,” Cole said.

 

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