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Is It Safe To House Hunt During the Coronavirus Crisis? This Is What You Must Know

In the best of times, shopping for a house is a complicated and involved process—a big-ticket proposition involving lots of shopping around and meeting a ton of people so you’re 100% sure you’ve picked the right place, at the right price. But, of course, these are not the best of times.

Now that the coronavirus pandemic has people across the country hunkering down at home to lower their exposure levels, even the most determined home buyer might be wondering: Is it safe to shop for a house right now?

We’re here to help you navigate this time of uncertainty and instability with this second installment of our new series, “Home Buying in the Age of Coronavirus.”

While risk is a personal decision, the real estate industry is adapting to provide ways to go about home buying safely during the coronavirus pandemic. You can now do many things at a safe social distance, or even remotely, when it comes to buying a home that you may not have considered doing in the past. Here are all the ways in-person checkpoints to buying a home have changed to keep you safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Finding the right real estate agent

When it comes to buying a home, pairing up with the right agent is always key to finding your perfect property. But today, you need one who is tech-savvy and comfortable conducting meetings and business online.

“Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other tools allow buyers to have consultations  from the comfort of their home.

To find an agent to further help you remotely, ask candidates if they offer virtual consultations and home tours. They should also be able to help you with e-signature apps so you can send and receive documents to sign digitally through email.

“If an agent doesn’t offer these services yet, I highly recommend finding an agent who is comfortable working with technology

Virtual home tours

Crowded open houses with a plate of cookies for everyone to grab are a thing of the past—at least for now. Instead, you’ve got virtual open houses and video tours.There are several ways to virtually tour a home. Along with photos, many listings were already starting to incorporate videos or virtual reality tours. You’ll be able to tour the home, room by room, without physically stepping onto the property.The power of video cannot be underestimated at a time like this,however, these videos are filmed and edited, so you may not be able to see every nook and cranny. If you want to do a deeper dive, many agents will accommodate you.

Granted, we’re not necessarily saying you should buy a house without seeing it in person unless there’s no choice in the matter. Nonetheless, it’s smart to do what you can remotely to whittle down your options so you can choose what’s worth an in-person visit, now or later.

Also keep in mind that in late March, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared residential real estate sales an “essential service,” although certain state officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have explicitly forbidden home showings. And even if they are allowed, agents, home sellers, and buyers must all be willing to make them happen.

When in doubt, check with your agent and local government for more information, and know that things could change as this pandemic progresses.

Remote mortgage pre-approval

One smart way to stay safe right now is to work with a loan officer who is set up to work remotely.

Some lenders had already made the entire mortgage process digital long before social distancing was needed. And now, many more have jumped on board out of necessity.

The first step is to interview a few loan officers over the phone or by video chat. Since mortgage interest rates are all over the map these days, it’s extremely important to shop around and compare what they’re offering—and make sure they’re comfortable conducting all steps of the transaction online.

Ideally, you want a lender that allows you to track your loan progress, view educational resources, and stay in touch, all without leaving the house.

In order to get pre-approved for a loan, the lender will need to review your income, debt, credit history, and other factors—and you’ll need to submit paperwork verifying all of the above.

Luckily, most of this paperwork should be available online, such as pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements. If you’re unsure how to access them, a tech-savvy lender should be able to help. (Here’s more on the paperwork needed for mortgage pre-approval, and why getting pre-approved matters.)

Check out realtor.com/mortgage to find local lenders and to figure out how much home you can afford.

Remote home inspections

“We are offering clients the option of doing a remote inspection, where we inspect the house alone and review the findings with them via a videoconference,” says certified home Inspector Welmoed Sisson of Inspections by Bob in Maryland and author of “101 Things You Don’t Want in Your Home.” At a remote home inspection, inspectors take a lot more pictures than they might have in the past so clients can get a good idea of where the issues are. “We also take videos if the issue is something moving that shouldn’t, such as a loose handrail or wobbly toilet,” adds Sisson. “While we’re in the house, we use gloves, wash our hands, and wipe down things we touch with antiseptic cloths.” Once the report is completed, Sisson sets up a video call and emails clients PDFs of background information about why inspectors test what they do. “Through screen sharing, I go through a slideshow of the pictures, answering questions as we go,” says Sisson.

Virtual home appraisals

Home appraisals required by a lender generally include a site visit, which is not possible in some parts of the country where this is not considered an essential service. Luckily, appraisals pertain only to those getting loans, so cash buyers can skip this process entirely. But if you are getting a mortgage, fear not.

The appraiser then uses comparable properties for the reports. While these methods may not be to the penny in terms of value, they are relatively accurate and allow lenders to continue operating.

Remote home closings

In-person home closings—where all parties come together to sign contracts, swap keys, and shake hands—are, for the most part, not happening right now (especially the shaking hands part). However, most closings require some face-to-face interaction, since people have to sign documents and notaries need to stamp them in person.

So while home buyers will probably have to show up on closing day, it will look far different from the past.

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Corona-virus Mortgage Relief: What You Need To Know

It’s a confusing time, but lenders are putting remedies, like forbearance, in place to help homeowners.

Mortgage lenders, and the federal agencies that regulate lenders, are putting coronavirus mortgage relief measures in place to ensure homeowners have options if they’re unable to make payments. 

Your first stop in the face of financial hardship is your lender or bank. 

Just keep in mind lenders are working to figure out and implement the new mortgage relief polices outlined by the regulatory agencies. So you might read one thing from the FHFA, a federal regulator, but your bank might be doing something else. 

In addition, due to the number of homeowners affected by the pandemic, lenders are dealing with a crush of calls and online queries. Be patient, persistent, and prepared to spend time on hold.  

Here are the resources you need now.

Your Mortgage

Federally Backed Mortgages
If you have a mortgage backed by Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veteran’s Administration (VA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac, your loan servicer must offer you deferred or reduced mortgage payment options – called forbearance — for up to six months. This means you don’t have to pay your mortgage and you won’t be charged late fees, penalties, or interest while you can’t pay. 

Loan servicers for FHA, Freddie, and Fannie must provide an additional six months of forbearance if you request it. 

Not sure who backs your own loan? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have loan look-up sites where you can find out who owns it, and how to get in touch with them.

In addition, here are direct links to some lenders and banks’ Covid-19 resources:

  • Ally
  • BNC National Bank
  • Bank of America
  • Better.com
  • Caliber Home Loans
  • Capital One
  • Chase
  • Citibank
  • Navy Federal
  • PHH
  • PNC
  • Quicken Loans
  • Truist (formerly BB&T and Suntrust)
  • U.S. Bank
  • Wells Fargo

Mortgages Not Federally Backed
If your mortgage is one of the 5 million in the United States not backed by a federal entity, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes a coronavirus mortgage relief mandate, doesn’t apply. But regulators have encouraged those lenders to work with borrowers who can’t pay their mortgages, and most banks and other lenders are suspending mortgage payments or offering forbearance. 

The level of relief you get will depend on who owns your loan. Contact your lender to find out what’s available. 

Regardless of the type of loan you have, you must apply for coronavirus mortgage relief through their mortgage servicer. That’s the entity that collects your monthly payments and decides how long the assistance will last. When you reach your mortgage servicer, you’ll need to explain your situation and provide information about your income, expenses, and assets. 

Foreclosure and Evictions

Federal officials have imposed a nationwide halt to foreclosures and evictions for more than 36 million Americans with home mortgages backed by the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. 

The moratorium only affects borrowers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, and RHS (Rural Housing Service loans through the USDA). This doesn’t apply to the roughly 35% of mortgages held in bank portfolios and private label securities. But some individual lenders are offering relief.

Some cities, counties, and states, including Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Texas, have placed a moratorium on foreclosures. Check with your city, county, and state governments. Find state-by-state tallies online. 

Housing Counselors

Another tool in your relief toolbox are housing counselors. Counselors can provide independent advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s look-up tool lets you can find counselors in your state. 

Your Credit

The CARES Act forbids lenders from dinging your credit score for missed payments on federally backed mortgages and student loans during your forbearance period. The federal government is also encouraging private lenders to suspend reporting late payments on eligible mortgages. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has more advice about protecting your credit. 

By law, you can get a free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Note that these reports don’t include credit scores. Equifax offers six free credit reports every 12 months through December 2026 if you sign up for a myEquifax account. 

Your Student Loan

The CARES Act includes immediate relief for those who can’t make their monthly payments on federally held loans due to coronavirus. All loan payments (both principal and interest) are suspended through Sept. 30, 2020, with no penalty. You don’t need to apply for this program or contact your lender. It’s automatic.

If you keep making payments, they’ll be applied entirely toward the principal. These suspended payments will count towards any student loan forgiveness already in effect. 

Here’s a list of servicers — and their phone numbers — for loans backed by the U.S. Department of Education. 

Some loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program and some Perkins Loans not owned by the Department of Education aren’t eligible for suspended payments. Nor are private student loans owned by banks, credit unions, schools, or other private entities. If you can’t make payments, contact your loan servicer to find out what options are available. Many are offering ways, like forbearance, to postpone payments.

Not sure who your servicer is? Look on your most recent statement and contact the servicer immediately. 

If your student loan is already in default, the relief act immediately suspends wage garnishments or tax refund deductions. They’ll resume after the suspension ends. 

Find out more about student loan relief at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

Your Taxes

The IRS has pushed back the deadline for filing and payment of federal taxes to July 15, 2020. Many states are following suit. Check with your state tax agency, or see this list from the American Institute of CPAs for details on deadlines. 

Related: Tips to Get Filing Ready for (Delayed) Tax Deadline

Your Real Estate Transaction

If you’re going to be buying or selling a home in the near future, find out if your county recording office can complete the deal online.

In addition, more than half of states, many under emergency state directive, allow for remote online notarization of documents. This makes it safe and easy to complete real estate transactions under social distancing orders. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as pandemic legislation expands.

Your Appraisal

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have provided detailed appraisal alternative guidelines, so homeowners and appraisers can practice social distancing on Freddie and Fannie loans through May 17, 2020.

FHA, VA, and RHS are also allowing variations on the usual appraisal protocol. Check with your servicer for details.

Look Out For Scams

Fear breeds scams. And scammers are out in full force during the pandemic. Beware of third parties offering mortgage assistance and other help. Seek help from your lender directly. 

For information on circulating scams, and guidance on identifying them, visit the Federal Trade Commission website. 

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Coronavirus News

Coronavirus is a very real issue that we’re all dealing with in the best way that we can. The Maryland Governor has declared a State of Emergency, is closing State-run Offices and Departments to non-essential personnel and is forcing the closure of Public Schools. These measures are simply precautions to limit exposure in order to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed.  The chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court on Monday declared a “judicial emergency” in light of the new coronavirus outbreak — ordering thousands of trials and other court hearings around the state postponed for at least three weeks.Of course, the degree and nature of the COVID-19 outbreak may change, and that’s why we will continue to provide you with the most up-to-date information possible.    Mayor Muriel Bowser is adjusting the D.C. government’s operating status as part of the District’s response to the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. It’s important that we listen to the medical professionals who are bearing the brunt of this by working hard to treat the infected and developing a vaccine. We must all do our part to slow the progression. We need to come together as a community to be intelligent about what is happening and how we can continue with the business of Real Estate while addressing your needs.

Ultimately, you have to determine what’s right for you as a home-buyer or home-seller. Our job isn’t to push you into a decision you’re not comfortable with, but rather to provide hyper-local context that may be lost in the national media coverage. Conditions that make for a fantastic market for both buyers and sellers still exist—incredibly low rates and rising home values. Our market is still thriving.

So what can you do if you are following the health precautions but still aren’t sure if it’s right to begin the
home selling or home buying process?

If you’re practicing social distancing, our team is ready to offer you a virtual consultation. There’s no need to meet in person as we can still discuss your specific needs in detail. For more info contact: Carlos Caraballo at 202-679-0006   or Patricia Caceres  at 571-839-4785

Buyers: We understand that you may not be able to come out to look at homes right now but there are several ways to continue your search from home. As part of our process, we always recommend to our buyers to take a close look at all the pictures, any virtual tours available online and any neighborhood/area factors that would help narrow down your choices. Also, walking the neighborhood using Google street view or google overview of the property to see if the layout of the land is to your liking will help as well. If you want a closer look we can provide you with a live virtual tour of the property from the comfort of your own home.

To schedule please reach out 202-679-0006 or email Patriciac@metrohomesdmv.com

Sellers: If your home is on the market or you are considering listing your home…

  1. We will be setting up a mandatory hand washing station at showings ( attached disclosures )
  2. We will have Appointment Only showings on specific days to your liking
  3. We will hold a Virtual Open house or Showings upon requests

The option to temporarily pull out of market is there but can delay the sale of your home. Further items that can delay your home sale are title searches in MD/VA/DC and any other paperwork that may be needed (depending on the county). It is our intention to continue the business of Real Estate but more importantly stick to our Metro Homes DMV foundations.
Our Clients, their success our safety.

Buyer Disclosure Document | Seller Disclosure Document | Showing Disclosure

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National Flood Insurance Program Extended Through Nov. 21

On Sept. 27, President Trump signed H.R. 4378 into law, funding the National Flood Insurance Program, and averting a government shutdown, through November 21, 2019. This is the 13th short-term measure for this program in the past two years.

Congress Votes to Extend National Flood Insurance

Don’t expect a lapse—not yet anyway—in the National Flood Insurance Program, the country’s largest flood insurer. The program has been set to expire on Sept. 30, but the U.S. Senate recently passed an extension that would keep the program afloat until Nov. 21. The House had previously passed the extension. The bill is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump.

This extension will mark the 13th time the program—which is billions of dollars in debt–has been rescued by lawmakers with extensions. The NFIP provides flood insurance coverage to 22,000 communities nationwide and protects property owners against loss from flooding, the most common and costly natural disaster in the U.S.

Federal law requires the purchase of flood insurance for a federally backed mortgage in special flood hazard areas designated by FEMA. Private flood insurance is also available in many high-risk areas, but the NFIP may be the only option for some homeowners.

Any lapse in NFIP funding could jeopardize up to 40,000 home sales a month, the National Association of REALTORS® has warned in the past. NAR has long called on long-term reforms to the program. NAR supports reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program, including calls to strengthen flood mapping and mitigation and the development of more private-market flood insurance options.

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Market Metrics: Change Is in the Air – and on the Ground in Northern Virginia

THE ECONOMY

In 2018, the D.C. regional economy added about 30,000 jobs – significantly slower than the previous year but still decent job growth (see Figure 1). Regional variations in job growth between Northern Virginia, the district and suburban Maryland can be explained, in part, by shifting federal spending priorities of the Trump administration, which has favored spending in sectors that are strong in Northern Virginia. Importantly, the region continues to shift economic growth away from dependence on the federal sector. Recent estimates from the Fuller Institute at George Mason University (GMU) show that federal government activities, including contracting, represented 31% of the economy in 2018 – down from about 40% in 2010.

Figure 1. Job Change, Month-Over-Year – Washington Metro Area (000’s)
Figure 1 Job Change Month Over Year
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


The announced arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 to Northern Virginia is among the biggest changes in the region. Amazon’s second headquarters is expected to host 25,000 employees in about 12 years. More important than the actual job growth, the Amazon announcement is a clear, global statement that this region can be a vibrant, tech-focused hub for private sector investment.

This change in the structure of the regional economy will likely have at least three impacts on the residential real estate market.

  1. Federal workers will become a smaller share of Realtor® clients, which may impact clients’ job stability, length of stay in a given home and retirement planning.
  2. The impacts of government shutdowns and agency budget cuts, which seem to be increasingly favored political tools, will become less important to our overall base of current and prospective homebuyers.
  3. Our local real estate and job markets will more closely mirror national economic cycles – though the federal government will still be an important backstop to the regional economy.

One area of uncertainty is the increasing efforts by the current administration to shift federal agency jobs away from the national capital region. Pending changes in jobs at the Department of Agriculture and Department of the Interior, as cited in the Washington Post, have caused much consternation among federal workers. However, an interesting outcome may emerge. According to recent National Public Radio and Washington Post reports, the majority of federal workers from the Department of Agriculture whose jobs are relocating to Kansas City have decided to leave federal employment and remain in the D.C. area. While these residents could have relieved inventory challenges by relocating and freeing up homes for sale, having these talented workers stay in the region can be viewed as a net gain for our economy.

THE URBAN FORM – DENSITY ARRIVES IN THE ‘BURBS

While there are several examples across the region of high-density, mixed-use developments appearing in suburban markets, particularly in transit-served areas, the Merrifield district of Fairfax County is a particularly relevant example.

Merrifield, which is the area that includes the Dunn Loring Metro stop, has been a target for urban planners for at least two decades.

In 1998, Fairfax County hosted a community visioning workshop to reimagine how the district could be transformed. According to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, 2017 Edition, the citizen stakeholders at this vision session enumerated several goals: encouraging revitalization and redevelopment of district properties, stabilizing residential areas adjacent to the town center, becoming mixed-use in character, and boosting the number of housing units in the district – including affordable housing.

Through several years of efforts, including the establishment by Fairfax County of a tax-increment financing district to incentivize investment, plans for what is now the Mosaic District have come to fruition. Located south of Lee Highway between Gallows Road and Eskridge Road, the two-phase project will eventually include almost 1.9 million square feet of office, retail/restaurant, retail, residential and park space. Phase One completed in 2012 and Phase Two is well underway. Housing units include apartments, condominiums and townhomes.

There is substantial anecdotal evidence that Mosaic has achieved the planning goal of stabilizing and even boosting property values in adjacent residential areas. With its visitor mix of young adults, families and prime-earners, Mosaic has become one of the “coolest” places in D.C. suburban markets.

That cool factor may be about to increase. In June, Fairfax County announced its new partnership with Dominion Energy to operate autonomous shuttle buses from the Dunn Loring Metro station around the Mosaic District.

Other examples of the suburbanization of density in Northern Virginia include the Ballston area of Arlington and the conversion of the old Potomac Yards rail storage facility. If the new “Amazonians” want to have transit-based commutes from walkable and bicycle-friendly neighborhoods with entertainment, retail, and dining options, they are no longer limited to D.C. Mixed-use development, which was once a common subject of the “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) mindset, now represents clear opportunities for growth and development in traditional suburban markets.

WHO YOU GONNA CALL – FOR A LOAN?

The new litmus test for “seasoned” versus “newbie” Realtors® can be based on this question: “Do you remember when we got our mortgages through banks?”

Non-bank lenders became widespread leading up to the sub-prime lending crisis, but many of these non-bank lenders became obsolete as their financial models collapsed with the bursting housing bubble. The odds of a mortgage originator being a non-bank lender are now greater than 50-50. Just 10 years ago, more than 90% of loan originators were traditional banks. In more recent years, six of the 10 largest mortgage originators have been non-banks (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Non-Bank vs. Bank Mortgage Originations
Figure 2 Non Bank vs Bank Mortgage Originators
Source: Washington Post, September 21, 2018


Underwriting standards and post-global financial crisis financial regulations have made mortgages less attractive for banks. Moreover, the strength of the U.S. housing market – created by robust demand during a historically-long economic expansion and the overall resiliency of our national economy – has kept investor demand high for financial instruments backed by U.S. mortgages.

As more non-bank lenders have entered the market, competition has increased. The result has been quicker adoption of technology in the mortgage lending and marketing process and lenders being more competitive on points, rates and lending standards.

The good news in our high-cost market is that borrowers don’t need perfect credit or a large down payment to get into the housing market. The concern is that the lending industry is not yet certain where the line exists between helping deserving buyers get into a home versus facilitating a new round of household financial fragility where buyers obtain a mortgage loan they can’t afford. Still, the efficiency gains in recent years in mortgage application processing, driven largely by non-bank lenders, are helping the cellphone-app-focused generation of buyers better engage in the lending market. Still unresolved is a clear understanding by underwriters of the gig-economy. Once that hurdle is cleared there may be further progress in making the process of mortgage lending less of a barrier to entering homeownership.

NON-TRADITIONAL BROKERAGES – THE STORM ON THE HORIZON?


There is nothing new about limited service residential brokers. These brokers provide a worthwhile product to those who are interested in the level of service being offered. But while the internet has disrupted most every other segment of the real estate market, traditional Realtor® services and commission structures have been remarkably slow to change. The greater availability of market data has not supplanted the need for a deep market understanding, help in navigating the financial and legal complexities in real estate transactions, or the soft-side of the Realtor®-client relationship. However, there are rumblings that some take to be the distant drums of a new battle for Realtors®: communicating the value of Realtor® services in the face of new discount real estate brokerage models.

In brief, here are three areas of industry change that are emerging or expanding:

  1. The fee structure for some discount brokerages may lower commission costs compared to traditional real estate transactions, which could reduce Realtor® earnings.
  2. Some discount models envision a shift in the brokerage/Realtor® relationship, such that Realtors® are employees, not contractors. The stability of the salary and benefits compensation package paid to such employees is presumably appealing to some Realtors®.
  3. A more philosophical change in the discount brokerage model is the use of referral partner programs in which the discount broker sends its former customers to a traditional brokerage, then takes a referral fee from subsequent commissions. The change here is subtle but important. For those brokers who handle this referral business, who is  their primary customer – the referring entity or the homebuyer or seller?

MAY YOU LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES

As the end of this decade approaches, real estate markets are beset by challenges new and old. The economic base for our region is changing – and could evolve even more depending on the outcome of the 2020 elections. We are less bound by federal spending but are also less protected from national and global economic challenges. Though decades in the making, there are many areas in the NVAR community that have been, or will soon be, transformed into relatively dense, mixed-use urban areas.

The players in mortgage finance have changed dramatically, but overall efficiency and the use of technology are making transactions easier to understand and simpler to complete.

Finally, the employment structure and compensation for Realtors® could continue to change. Given the disruption that has occurred in other professional service markets, it is important to understand how new brokerage models may impact the fundamental relationship between Realtor® and client – which is the key value proposition for those engaged in the buying and selling of homes.

Dr. Terry Clower is director of the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis.

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Market Statistics: May, 2019

Northern Virginia Home Prices in Full Bloom; May Market Reflects Continued Spring Growth Cycle

Homebuyers in Northern Virginia Push Prices to Record Peak; NVAR/GMU-CRA Forecast Adjusted to Reflect Region’s HQ2 Effect

Fairfax – A dramatic first-quarter uptick in sales activity prompted a revised 2019 housing market forecast by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors® (NVAR), in partnership with the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis (GMU-CRA).

“Escalating prices and a diminishing number of available homes for sale combined to cause us to revisit 2019 projections for our NVAR market footprint,” said NVAR President Christine Richardson of Weichert, Realtors®. Members of an NVAR/GMU-CRA forecast focus group reconvened in March to reconsider regional market projections that were made in November 2018. The NVAR region covers Fairfax and Arlington counties, the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Vienna, Herndon and Clifton.

Median prices of homes sold in Arlington County are expected to show a 17.2 percent year-over-year increase by the end of 2019, announced GMU-CRA Director Dr. Terry Clower at the June 7, 2019 NVAR Finance Summit. This reflects a significant change from the NVAR/GMU-CRA original 2019 projected year-over-year increase of 5.1 percent. The median sale price in Arlington County in May was $615,000, a 9.82 percent increase compared to May 2018.

“This is a market response to the Amazon HQ2 announcement with investors competing with residents for a shrinking number of homes for sale. The price gains we foresee do not reflect an overall bubble in housing prices but rather reflect the specific circumstances of our current market” Clower said.

The Fairfax County median sale price is expected to see a 2019 year-over-year gain of about 7 percent, Clower said. This is more than double the original 3.1 percent projected year-over-year growth.

“The average sold price to original list price ratio in May was 99.9 percent for the NVAR region, and over 100 percent in both Arlington and Alexandria,” said Richardson. “Ratios at that level reflect a housing market with multiple offers on the table, and that’s what we’re continuing to see.”

Regarding possible limits on how high prices will climb, Clower said that mortgage qualification is the biggest restraint. “Our folks in the lending industry are constrained by the notion that they expect that [buyers are]actually able to pay [the loan] back.”

For the second consecutive month, the number of homes sold in the NVAR region reached a 14-year high. Buyers in the NVAR market closed on 2,381 homes in May – the highest number of May total sales since 2005, when there were 3,213 homes sold.

The pace of sales continued to climb in May, with homes selling within an average of 27 days on market (DOM).

“With average days on market down 42 percent compared with last May, the result is less than one month of inventory in some areas,” said NVAR Board Member Ritu Desai, of Samson Properties.

“Speculation on higher pricing once Amazon settles in the region has caused many sellers not to sell their homes now,” said Desai. “While the number of potential buyers entering the housing market in the Northern Virginia region is rising, the ripple impact of low inventory and high demand has caused a tough market for them,” she said.

Clower explained that some homeowners have also decided that since Amazon is coming, maybe they can live in their house a bit longer and then convert it to a rental property.

“I’m really concerned about the number of ownership to rental conversions we may have going forward, particularly as valuations get higher,” Clower said.

Based on revised projections, the number of available homes for sale in Fairfax County is expected to be down 10.2 percent at the end of 2019. The decline was previously projected to be just 2.4 percent.

“Arlington inventory has fallen off a cliff,” Clower said, and is expected to be down by 18.8 percent at the end of 2019. The original forecast showed a 7 percent year-end decline.

The number of available homes in Alexandria is expected to show a year-end decline of 37.5 percent in 2019. Previously, that decline was projected at 0.6 percent.

“Buyer interest is not likely to decline in the near term,” said NVAR CEO Ryan Conrad. “Employment across the D.C. Metro region continues to be healthy, and our partners at GMU-CRA tell us that almost all of the regional job growth is happening here in Northern Virginia.”

Panelists at the June 7 NVAR Finance Summit noted that much of the new Amazon recruiting will focus on international prospects, Conrad explained. “Our members are prepared to work with all newcomers to our region, and many local Realtors® have already earned their Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation or are planning to do so at NVAR later this year,” said Conrad.

Mortgage rates continue to be a potential motivating factor for prospective homebuyers. Average rates on both 30-year fixed and 15-year mortgages dropped on Tuesday, to 3.99 percent and 3.25 percent respectively.

May 2019 Regional Home Sales Compared to May 2018: Northern Virginia
Data as of June 6, 2019

A total of 2.381 homes sold in May 2019, a decrease of 3.17 percent below May 2018 home sales of 2,459.

Active listings decreased this month compared with 2018. Listings were down by about 23 percent below last year, with 2,916 active listings in May, compared with 3,790 homes available in May 2018. The average DOM for homes in May was 27 days, a decrease of 42.55 percent compared to the 47 DOM for homes in May 2018.

The average home sale price rose by 3.04 percent compared with last May, to $626,345. The May 2018 average price was $607,886.

The median sold price of homes this May, which was $552,750, rose by 2.84 percent compared to the median price of $537,500 in May 2018.

Source: https://www.nvar.com/services/news/market-statistics/market-statistics-may-2019

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April 2019 Regional Home Sales Compared to April 2018: Northern Virginia Data as of May 6, 2019

The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors® reports on April 2019 home sales activity for Fairfax and Arlington counties, the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Vienna, Herndon and Clifton.

A total of 2,157 homes sold in April 2019, an increase of 3.75 percent above April 2018 home sales of 2,079.

Active listings decreased this month compared with 2018. Listings were down by about 26 percent below last year, with 2,505 active listings in April, compared with 3,396 homes available in April 2018. The average DOM for homes in April was 30 days, a decrease of about 35 percent compared to the 46 DOM for homes in April 2018.

The average home sale price rose by 5.97 percent compared with last April, to $621,069. The April 2018 average price was $586,058.

The median sold price of homes this April, which was $560,000, rose by 6.67 percent compared to the median price of $525,000 in April 2018.

Read more about the NVAR region housing market in GMU-CRA Market Metrics articles published in NVAR’s RE+VIEW magazine, found at NVAR.com/review.

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After the Contract Is Signed, Fair Housing Law Continues

Each year, we remind our members that April is Fair Housing Month. To many, it may feel as though the struggles for Fair Housing are in our rearview mirror, but the disheartening reality is that housing discrimination is still very present throughout our nation. Virginia REALTORS® encourages its members to continue promoting the Fair Housing Act, helping to ensure industry practices are fair and equal to all.

Often times, it is assumed that the FHA is relevant only to the process of attaining housing; however, the law doesn’t end upon the signing of a mortgage or rental lease. The National Association of REALTORS® has highlighted a recent court case regarding a rental tenant who was harassed by another tenant: Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc.

The FHA requires landlords to protect their tenants from known discrimination. The law imposes a duty on landlords to prevent any tenant-on-tenant discrimination. NAR has provided the following summary for the Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc. case. We hope this case study will shed light on implementing the FHA in real-world scenarios.

Source: The National Association of REALTORS®

An African American individual (“Tenant”) leased an apartment in a multi-unit apartment complex (“Complex”) managed by a property management company (“Manager”). After moving onto the property, another resident (“Harasser”) began directing derogatory comments towards the Tenant, including profanity and racist comments. He also harassed the Tenant in the Complex’s parking lot.

The Tenant called the police about the Harasser’s behavior. The police came to the Complex, interviewed witnesses, and warned the Harasser to stop his behavior. The police also told the Manager about the Harasser’s actions. The Manager did not take any action.

Subsequently, the Tenant filed another complaint with the police about the Harasser and alerted the Manger directly about the alleged harassment. The Manager again did nothing. The Harasser continued his behavior, and the police arrested him for harassment. The Tenant again notified the Manager about the harassment, but nothing was done. The Tenant notified the Manager a third time, but nothing happened and the Harasser was allowed to remain at the Complex until his lease expired. The Harasser later pleaded guilty to harassment and a protective order was entered prohibiting him from contacting the Tenant.

The Tenant filed a lawsuit against the Manager, alleging violations of the FHA, New York’s fair housing laws, and various other causes of action related to the emotional trauma resulting from the harassment. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the Manager on the FHA claims, and the Tenant appealed.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the trial court and ruled that the Manager could have a duty to intervene when it knows of tenant-on-tenant racial harassment. Since this was a novel claim, the court consulted with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) about its views on a landlord’s potential liability and HUD pointed to its rules, arguing that the court should recognize limited claims against landlords arising from tenant-on-tenant racial harassment.

The court examined the FHA and found that the law supported imposing a duty on landlords to prevent tenant-on-tenant discrimination. First, the court determined that the FHA was not limited to preventing discrimination during the buying or leasing of property- instead, the FHA was intended to end all forms of discrimination that interfered with an individual’s enjoyment of their housing, not just those arising from the sale or lease of property.

Next, court looked at whether the FHA imposed liability on a landlord for failing to prevent tenant-on-tenant discrimination when it is on notice that it is occurring. Only one other federal circuit had considered this issue, but HUD’s rules could impose liability on a housing provider when a third-party is creating a hostile environment for a resident that the housing provider is on notice about but fails to take prompt action.

The court accepted HUD’s interpretation of the FHA in its rules and ruled that a housing provider could be liable for failing to prevent tenant-on-tenant discrimination when it is on notice that the discrimination is occurring. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court and sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings on whether the Manager had an obligation to stop the tenant-on-tenant discrimination in the Complex.