The New Condo Market in the DC Metro: A Snapshot

by Will Smith

Real estate sales and marketing firm McWilliams|Ballard has released a report on the state of the condo market in the DC metropolitan area. Entitled 2009 Washington Metro Area Condominium Market Overview, the 34-page report includes tons of data and analysis about the current condo market. McWilliams|Ballard provided UrbanTurf an advance copy of the report, and below we have pulled out what we believe are the key findings:

County/City Units Remaining
The District 1,368
Prince William 1,059
Arlington 571
Fairfax 615
Montgomery 608
Prince George’s 597
Loudoun 424
Alexandria 141

  • The number of new condos for sale across the DC metro stands at just under 5,400, making this the first time since 2003 that new condo inventory has been below 6,000. At right is the breakdown of where those new condos are found.

  • Given the low (and diminishing) supply, there is likely to be a shortage of new condos starting sometime later this year. You may have already heard of the “condo shortage”; DC real estate watchers first started talking about it halfway through 2009. Fast forward six months, and the trends leading to a shortage have only continued: the condo projects that delivered over the last few years are selling out, while no new projects are breaking ground.

  • As a result of the shortage, some rental projects may find it advantageous to “go condo.” That includes already-delivered buildings converting back to condo, as well as under-construction buildings switching to condo just before they deliver. Currently, 99 percent of all under-construction residential development in the DC area is planned as rental. That’s 4,400 units in total.

  • The shortage could be a good thing for individual condo owners looking to sell. The lack of new projects will force condo buyers to look at resale properties, which could boost demand and, in turn, prices. Price appreciation would likely be modest, but any appreciation at all would be welcome given the declines of the last few years.

  • Of the units that remain, a larger-than-usual percentage are two-bedrooms or larger. Studios and one-bedrooms are the most popular, and therefore sell out first. The result is that the remaining inventory will be harder to sell than what has already sold.

  • The new FHA guidelines are bad news for the condo market. The increased down payment requirement (from 3.5 to 10 percent for buyers with a credit score below 580) and reduction in permissible seller concessions (from 6 to 3 percent) dramatically change the economics of FHA loans, which are a very popular source of financing for new condo buyers. Combine this with the expiration of the first-time homebuyer tax credit in April, and new condo sales could suffer a double whammy this spring.

The New Condo Market in the DC Metro: A Snapshot: Figure 1
The Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor

  • The Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, Logan Circle/U Street, and Mount Vernon Triangle are the most robust markets in the whole metropolitan area. There is already a condo shortage in the RB Corridor, and McWilliams|Ballard predicts that “it is only a matter of time” before new condos are introduced to the market, either in the form of under-construction rentals ultimately delivering as condos, or existing apartment buildings converting to condos.

  • The difference between the new condo markets of “close-in” versus “farther-out” areas is stark. For the entire region, DC and Arlington accounted for 62 percent of gross sales of new condos in 2009. Meanwhile, the new condo markets in Prince William and Loudoun Counties in Virginia and Prince George’s County in Maryland continue to suffer very slow absorption and high rates of foreclosures and short sales.

  • There were a total of 2,483 gross sales of new condos in 2009. Net sales were 1,776. The table below shows the breakdown of sales by city and county.

County/City Gross Sales Net Sales
The District 1,206 982
Arlington 335 183
Montgomery 288 288
Fairfax 237 102
Prince George’s 176 3
Alexandria 97 97
Prince William 75 52
Loudoun 69 69
OVERALL 2,483 1,776

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/mb_report/1741


  1. Tim said at 6:22 pm on Thursday February 4, 2010:
    not familiar with "net" and "gross" in relation to condo sales... what do those terms mean in this context?
  1. Simon Landau said at 11:15 pm on Sunday February 7, 2010:
    I'm excited to see what properties that are currently apartments get converted to condominiums. The time to buy in DC is now, and buildings will act accordingly.
  1. Mark @ McWilliams|Ballard said at 5:20 pm on Thursday February 11, 2010:
    Tim, I understand the confusion, it is not the most straightforward concept and we often have difficulty finding a succinct way to explain it. I'll try. Gross sales are simply all contracts written in a given time period. (Note: this excludes rescinded contracts. Our numbers treat rescissions as if they never occurred.) Then, we subtract from that number all defaults (sales occurring in the years prior to construction completion that do not settle upon delivery) and cancellations (sales canceled by the developer in order to change a building to rental). These are negative net sales and their subtraction from gross sales leaves us with net sales. There is not really such a thing as a 'net sale' in the singular. So, we think gross sales is the best measure of demand since it is the actual number of sales that occurred. We must account for defaults and cancellations because they were counted as sales in the years when they actually sold and now must be netted out of the current period. An example, building X began sales in 2006 when the building broke ground and sold 150 units that year. That is 150 sales in 2006. Then, when the building delivered in 2008, 50 of those buyers did not settle because they can no longer afford the mortgage. Those are 50 negative net sales in 2009 that will negatively affect sales figures in that year. I hope that helps.

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