Wednesday, December 12, 2007

2008 Regional Outlook: "Fundamentals Sound"

George Mason University has updated their 2008 Outlook for the Washington, DC, metro area. It’s fairly consistent with previous presentations (perhaps slightly more positive, in my opinion.) Here are the key findings:

  • Local job market continues to be very strong, with Washington, DC, having the lowest unemployment rate of the largest 15 job markets (US average = 4.4%, DC = 3.1%.) (See slide 5.) As I have commented here before, the job market is a great indicator of the housing market to come—people go where the jobs are, and they need a place to live. Because this area doesn’t have particularly high vacancy rates in rentals, that translates into pressure on rents (thus providing an incentive for renters to buy), or more demand for homes.
  • This area has significantly fewer foreclosures (as measured per 10,000 units) than most large metropolitan areas in Florida, California, and the rust belt. DC (22), Arlington (27), and Alexandria (34) have the fewest foreclosures of any local county. (See slide 13) Think about those numbers for a minute. For every 10,000 homes in the District, just 22 are in foreclosure. This is consistent with other posts I’ve made about this area having two different markets—close in neighborhoods versus outlying suburbs.
  • Days on market has increased significantly. (However, this can easily be misinterpreted—see my post on “Some Sellers Get It—And Get It In 30 Days!” Total units sold have declined (duh). Total active listings have increased (again, duh.)
  • Percentage change in inventories has slowed dramatically and is consistent with 2003 levels. (See slide 23). We still have quite a backlog to work through, but at least for now it doesn’t appear to be getting any worse.
  • Outlook: “Fundamentals are sound, 2008 will be moderately better than 2007.” (And by “better,” of course, they mean better for sellers.) “Housing prices will be flat until at least Spring & will be a mixed story across the region—some jurisdictions will be negative and others showing increases.”
So in summary, all real estate is local, and the DC market is, all things considered, not a bad place to be right now.

(If you found this interesting, see my related post: When will the DC real estate market turnaround?)


Anonymous said...

Any movement toward the immediate DC suburbs? Seems that the people who creep along on 66th from Loudon County are having their wallets taxed with gas prices where they are? One guy told me he is spending $17.00 a day on gas.

Katie Wethman said...

Anonymous, I'm sure there are quite a few 'exurb' types who would like to move the suburbs given gas prices. Unfortunately unless they've owned for 5+ years, many are likely underwater on their own homes, so moving is not an option. Steep gas prices will surely make any recovery in the outer areas that much more difficult...and on the flip side may accelerate recovery in closer in areas.