D.C. housing market shows signs of stabilizing after record highs

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Local Realtors are reporting a continued fast pace in the local market. (Brian Kapur/Current file photo)
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After years of surging housing costs, relief may be in sight for District homebuyers. Realtors are seeing signs of stabilizing prices in 2017 so far, due in part to a growing supply of new development in pockets of the city.

Last month, the median price for single-family houses, town houses and condos in the District was $545,000, down 5.3 percent from August 2016, which had seen a record-high median of $575,250. However, sales volume has grown, with 6,259 cumulative sales recorded this year to date — 8.3 percent more than the number sold through August of last year.

In general, according to local Realtors, the District housing market has seen peaks and troughs but appears to be leveling out.

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“It’s starting to maybe go back to some sanity,” Lindsay Dreyer, chief operating officer and broker at City Chic Real Estate, said in an interview. “The market had been so frenzied.”

Dreyer pointed to developments in the city’s Southeast quadrant as a source of the city’s growing housing supply. Anacostia, for example, is abounding with commercial and residential developments — a new Busboys and Poets restaurant set to open next year; several mixed-use developments; and a possible Walgreens. Anacostia sits on the lower end of the price scale, with a median home costing $310,000 according to Zillow. However, its market is appreciating at a faster rate than most D.C. neighborhoods, with prices rising by 6.8 percent this year and projected by Zillow to increase by 1.5 percent in 2018.

While Compass real estate broker Keene Taylor Jr. was hesitant to jump to any conclusions, he did say that the market appears to be stabilizing.

“We haven’t run out of rope, but the rope is starting to tighten a bit,” Taylor told The Current. “It’s been going up for so long … more than people’s salaries have gone up over that period of time.”

For first-time buyers, though, news remains steadfastly bleak. Taylor confirmed that breaking into the market is still a daunting task.

“D.C. continues to be on-trend … to becoming a financially gated community,” Taylor said. “In other words, if you don’t have a certain significant amount of financial resources, you’re not going to be able to buy or live in D.C., because it’s just so prohibitively expensive.”

While the District has nearly 700,000 residents occupying about 68 square miles of land, its collection of residential nooks are thriving with close-knit communities who gather for street parties and to debate at public meetings.

Kishan Putta and Divya Swamy opted for Burleith for this reason. Putta and Swamy lived in Dupont Circle for some years, but relocated to the quieter community just north of Georgetown where they said neighbors knew one another’s names.

Since moving in last November, Putta has jumped headfirst into community groups and projects. An advisory neighborhood commissioner in his old Dupont community and a 2014 at-large D.C. Council candidate, Putta was nominated to join the board of the Burleith Citizens Association and is currently embroiled in efforts to improve the area’s public transportation options.

However, Burleith — with generally well-regarded public schools and scores of nearby amenities, restaurants and parks — is notoriously expensive, sitting firmly out the grasp for most buyers. Its median house price hovers at $1 million, and has risen steadily year after year.

As residents sought more affordable locales, many moved to Ward 4’s Petworth. After buying her first home there four years ago, Keller Williams Capital Properties agent Amber Harris said she was delighted to find a close-knit community reminiscent of her small-town Oklahoma upbringing, a budding culinary scene on Upshur Street NW and an abundance of nearby retail options.

Still, Petworth isn’t exactly cheap. Its median home price currently hovers at $560,000, according to Zillow. However, Petworth’s market has slowed — it’s projected to increase by 0.9 percent in the next year, compared to a 3.6 percent gain over the past 12 months.

Harris, who had lived in Silver Spring, Md., for a decade after graduating from Georgetown University, wanted to purchase her first home somewhere in the District. And Petworth’s more accessible prices, coupled with its walkability, convenience and availability of spacious homes, sparked her interest.

“I kind of lucked out,” Harris said in an interview, adding that neighbors know one another, say hello, and even host street parties and gatherings. “It feels like where I’m supposed to be.”