Housing market conditions are better than last year

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About 70 percent of a group of Virginia Realtors who participated in a survey say that housing market conditions were slightly or significantly better in the first quarter of this year, according to a report released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

A similar share of respondents also indicated that the inventory of housing was very low or somewhat low, an improvement from a year earlier.

The online survey of members of the Virginia Association of Realtors (VAR), done in partnership with the Richmond Fed, was conducted from May 6 to May 17, with 1,084 Realtors participating.

The Fed focused on the state of the residential housing market in Virginia and how conditions changed during the first quarter of 2013.

“These survey responses indicate that the housing market conditions have improved notably, compared to last year,” Richmond Fed regional economist Andy Bauer said in a statement.

“Overall market conditions, customer traffic, sales prices, inventories and financing conditions all showed improvement from last year's survey,” Bauer added. “Importantly, the inventory situation has turned with a large majority of respondents now reporting that inventories are low and that distressed properties are having less of an impact on home prices.”

VAR, a business advocacy group for real estate professionals in Virginia, represents nearly 29,000 Realtors active in real estate brokerage, management, development and appraisal.

“A year ago at this time, Virginia was experiencing a housing market growth but calling it a recovery seemed to be premature, VAR President Mary Dykstra said in a statement. “We are confident that the commonwealth is now in recovery and Virginia Realtors have provided a varied, but accurate picture of the housing market, in this survey.”

Highlights from the report:

• Housing market conditions improved with 71 percent of respondents indicating conditions were slightly or significantly higher than last year - an improvement of 14 percentage points from last year’s survey.

• Customer traffic is up with first-time homebuyers constituting most of the traffic for more than half the respondents.

• 60 percent of respondents say that median sales prices were up higher than the year prior.

• The inventory picture changed notably since the last survey. In the 2012 survey, 42 percent of respondents indicated that inventories were somewhat or very high while an equal percentage indicated that they were very low. In the current survey, only 14 percent indicated that inventories were somewhat or very high while 69 percent indicated they were very low, especially in Northern Virginia.

• The percentage of respondents indicating that distressed homes greatly impacted prices declined this year from 41 to 18 percent.

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