The Shirlington Report
~ December 2011 ~
A total of 20 Shirlington condos went to settlement in December and half of the 14 units under contract received their offer in the month. This number of settlements is the lowest since February when just 18 units sold.
At a glance it would appear that Shirlington real estate is solidly a sellers market, with only a bit over a 2 month inventory of available units, however inventory has already begun to increase. Since the ball dropped in Times Square, 7 new listings have come on the market, and they are not any of the 15-20 units that were withdrawn from the market from late November to December. Should even half of those withdrawn units come back on the market, along with the current inventory, the area would have about a 4+ month inventory based on historical sales numbers for January & February.
The Shirlington area is surrounded mainly by condominium developments, with some fee simple town home/row homes & apartment buildings, and has a main street section with restaurants, movie theatre, award winning live theatre at the Signature, County library, and boutiques. Shirlington Village, which is the proper name, also sponsors community activities from the Christmas Tree lighting to Octoberfest to a pet adoption festival, so that on any given weekend the streets and outdoor restaurant seating in filled with local residents. Since it is not on a Metrorail line (but next to I-395 to get to the Pentagon & Washington DC), housing prices are lower per square foot than condos near the Orange line in North Arlington or the Yellow/Blue line to the East in Alexandria City. For all these reasons, it is a preferred destination and location to buy a condo by first time home buyers, military/relocation, and a few empty nesters looking to downsize into a vibrant area.
What stands out is that 60% of the settlements occurred on units priced below the $300K mark. Through September and October, the $200K-$300K price point in Northern Virginia had been the slowest price segment within the condominium market. That price range represents the entry point for most of the sought after developments in the area and is above what most investor/cash buyers are looking to spend for a single condo. So sales are almost exclusively to owner occupants and a large percentage of those are first time buyers. This demographic also appears more readily affected by national media reports of declining real estate values, even though historically low interest rates have returned and the greater Washington DC area is well insulated through federal and military employment.
Looking backwards at the previous six months, it is interesting (and unusual) to see the steady downward trend line in sold units. Normally, the Shirlington real estate market has a noticeable pick up in sold units during the traditional Fall market of September, October & November. This trend appears to be more attributable to first time homebuyers lacking any sense of urgency to make an offer, except for those units that were renovated or priced below the current market.
With that in mind, you have to be properly priced for condition in today’s market and avoid “testing” the market for a higher price. The market has very little sympathy or patience for a "good try"; so you need an agent that has proven experience in Shirlington and can help you interpret the market to get you settled.