Every year around this time, I download from the multiple listing service all of the residential housing transactions that went to settlement in the prior year. I like to track at a high level the volume of residential real estate in Reston; how many units and the dollar value.
I do this because if I only went by what the national news outlets say about the real estate market, I’d just have to quit. Real estate markets are intensely local, one cluster may do better than the one across the street, one cul-de-sac vs another and, as we know in Reston there are differences in value between zip codes.
When you ask an agent “how the market is doing?” we tend to answer through the lens of what kind of year we personally are having—the least accurate of all market evaluations. The funny thing is that when people ask "how’s the market?" What they really want to know is “How is my house doing? Up or down?” I’m pretty sure they don’t really care that I’m having a good year.
The numbers last year reflect what felt like a kind of pause in the market; as if it was holding its breath. Though plenty of individual agents did well, overall the number of transactions was down. In Reston, we sold $378 million dollars in volume representing 937 units (which is to say condos, townhouses and single family homes) with an average price of $403k, which is very close to what we did in 2008. This doesn’t mean that your home is worth less, it only means that fewer homes sold and fewer homes were listed for sale. The current inventory is only 104 properties for all three Reston zip codes.
If you are thinking of selling your home, pricing and condition are still very important factors in getting a home sold. The numbers do not lie—the more days on market the bigger the difference between the original list price and the sold price.
So, predications? Well, I’m busy; so it's going to be great, right? Maybe. Most of us can intuit that if people feel nervous about their personal situations they don’t consider the buy-up home or buying for the first time. Clearly, that’s what the “pause” of 2011 was all about, so I guess we’ll all see how it goes this year.
My advice? If you’re wondering about your home's value—don’t listen to the national home sales statistics and don’t ask an agent “How’s the Market?” Do ask an agent for comparable home sales, the numbers don’t lie.