Continuing to examine and hold a lively discussion of the Northern Virginia Real Estate market.
Please post your local house search updates, MLS finds, on-topic ideas, and links here.
WaPoInspector general for TARP, notes that increasing incentives for short sales, which are the most prone to fraud of all real estate transactions, may induce even more fraud. Sorry for the snark, I should probably stay off the blog today... must be lack of sleep.
Some listings just boggle the mind. Asking 63% over assessment and 18.5% over the price paid at the peak of the market Sept, 2006, a period in which values have dropped 25-30%.
Rent vs BuyThe New York Times revisits this age old question. Appears that Washington (Metro area?) is now a home buyers market.
Forgot the link.New York Times: Buy vs. Rent
Jaime, I believe the historical norm for Washington is around 15(and you can guestimate it was around 12 in 2000), making 18+ still significantly higher than normal.
Jaime,Yup. Just barely. Individual locations and properties, you'd have to judge for yourself. And the default calculator they have on the side of the main article appears screwy. You have to make sure it's really updating...
Im with Shamrock they say that a number abover 20 means you should rent and a number well below 20 means you should buy. So I assume anything in the 15-20 range implies that either is probably fine and its no more a buy signal than a don't buy signal
housebuyer,Indeed. Calling anything in the 15-20 range a buy signal presupposes that everyone is by default waiting around to buy when the time is ripe.
do such calculations usually take into account the tax benefit of interests deduction?i remember 15 years ago that's what my bro/SIL (both accountants) justified their purchase. but since bubble era speculating appreciation becomes the dominating reason.
MM- Ideally the calculation would include that tax benefit, but also the cost of maintaining the home. As a quick approximization you can probably ignore both of them, because over the life of your loan they will likely come close to offsetting each other.
MM,Both the tax benefit and maintanence costs are in the NYTimes calculator, as are the opportunity costs on your DP and monthly outflow. You'll need to go to the more detailed settings and fix them appropriately for your bracket and your expectations for opportunity and maintainence costs.
hb,didn't think the upkeep costs that much. back when i still owned i know i owed much less tax than this past three years. but of course i'm making more now so it's not really comparable.
MM,The key statement is over the life of the house. The tax benefit amoritizes away, whereas the maintainence keeps up with inflation.
holy cow! after sitting over a year, a nominal $25K price drop brought a $50K over list contract.if this is not the clearest evidence yet of the tide has changed in this market i don't know what is.moral of the story - never try to time the market. buy when stars aligned for YOU, otherwise, keep renting (and try to be happy).
MM- Usually people assume the upkeep is ~1% of the houses value. Most years it is much less, but when you need to put on a new roof,the HVAC, or update the kitchen it costs much more than 1%. Also as Cara said as you pay down your loan you get a smaller tax benefit.
MM- I should comment that in Arlington the tax benefit might be more than the upkeep costs. You are getting the tax benefit on the whole mortgage, while the whole upkeep cost is based on just the house value not the value of the land. So for all of where the land is worth 500K and the house is worth 100K the tax deduction would be much higher than the maintenance cost.
Jamie and Cara:How does that link make a case for a home buyers market? According to the article itself:"A number above 20 means you should consider renting. A number well below 20 makes a better case for buying."So according to the article: - Above 20 means you should rent.- Well below 20 makes a better case for buying. Notice the Well Below. I doubt anyone would consider 18.6 a number Well Below 20...Not sure I agree with how this was setup to begin with, but if you use it as a reference both buyers and renters should be just as happy with what they are doing.
NVC,That's the funny thing with adjectives... easy to miss them, but it is why I emphasized the "just barely" aspect.But yes, 15-20 is in the could go either way category which is what housebuyer was saying.
NVC,Actually, looking more closely I don't know that your paraphrase conveys the underlying feeling of either the article or that statement."When you do the math, you discover that a ratio above 20 means you should at least consider renting, especially if you may move again in the next five years or so. When the ratio is well below 20, the case for buying becomes a lot stronger. ""at least consider renting"? That's a pretty weak and buying-biased statement. Compared to "the case for buying becomes a lot stronger" That implies that there was a reasonable case to be made for buying at anything under 20, just that it's more compelling under say 16. So while I agree with both you and housebuyer that the rational and correct statement is that 15-20 is neutral, I don't think I overinterpreted the writer's meaning at all when agreeing with Jaime that the article was implying that anything under 20 may mean the coast is clear to buy if you want to. Which for sidelined buyers, is, well, a buy signal.
We have been eying the housing market in this area for a while now as we had various investments related to homes and housing prior till around 2007.As most of the people in this area are individuals (and not investors) I will take it from that point of view. If you look at it from a purely financial perspective, anyone who bought from late 2008 through 2009 are probably realizing what a mistake they made. The average fund I work with has seen an increase of 92% over that time. With a high of 214% and a low of 57%. So anyone who invested their money in a down payment on a home instead of investing it in many other funds/portfolios made a large financial mistake as that same money could have approximately been doubled during this time.Example: That same $100k you put into your home could have been valued at around $192k (using the average) now. So even if your home has increased in price by 20k over that same time that is a significant loss of overall personal wealth.
NVC,Sure, because that downpayment money is something you would have put into the markets to play with. Yup, normal individuals you're talking about here not investors....Mine? was sitting in savings earning 2.5% then 2.4, then ... down to 1.25% now. If you've allocated it to your house purchase you need it to be liquid and safe. But your scenario might explain an uptick in Arlington and other expensive area sales (if it happens) if people made that kind of money with their DP funds and are ready to cash them in.A home is not a short term investment it's an inflation hedge and an alternative to renting.
Cara,Why did you have your down payment in a savings account while the market skyrocketed? Not sure how much you had but that was a mistake, savings were paying close to nothing. Plus there are a ton of investing websites that allow individuals to purchase stocks or invest in portfolios. I have no idea why individuals find it so easy to make an investment of $500k in a home that can easily lose $100k+ in value (as we saw recently), but yet are so scared to invest $10k in the market. Both can go up or down, but both will also trend upwards over time as history indicates.
Nova Venture Capitalist:I have friends that are deeply underwater, having lost over $50k in their down payment that they will not likely see again for another ten years. Are you seriously lecturing Cara for not buying here during the bubble?
According to this article nearly 48% of mortgages will be underwater by 2011:http://www.nuwireinvestor.com/articles/48-percent-of-mortgages-may-be-underwater-by-2011-53463.aspxI have no idea why people continue to see buying a home as the safe alternative while things continue to point this way.
Kevin,Read what I wrote again, I do not think anyone should have bought in this area at all. If you bought during the bubble you got nailed by the bubble in home prices, if you bought in the last year+ you could have used your down payment in much better ways.
Sorry, I misread your comment.
"NVC said...Cara,Why did you have your down payment in a savings account while the market skyrocketed"Probably because there was no sign that said "this market is guaranteed to skyrocket".Sorry, but there is a little post hoc logic in your analysis -- specifically on the timing front. Imagine back in 2007 (knowing that housing was going to crash), Cara put her 100K in the stock market. Imagine her watching in horror as that market goes straight to hell.Further, what if she wanted to buy at the housing market bottom (March 2009). If so, her 100K down payment would be worth a mere 44K, and could have been the worst decision of her life.Like all of us, Cara likely has some money in the stock market, but down payment money is, for lack of a better term, just "different". So, given that there was no "guaranteed to skyrocket" sign on the stock market, why would she have put her precious down payment money at risk when she could park it somewhere where she knew it would be there any time the right house came around?
Nova- In addition to what Cara said the normal person does not have enough money to get that sort of return. Without millions it is difficult to get decent hedge fund, private equity, or venture capital firms to talk to you. (PS your fund does not normally have 90%, so it is absurd to look backward and say you should have invested in this a year ago...) So maybe they would have put it in the market which is up ~40% since late 08 early 09. Also you should do the math on your profit from buying a house. Lets say instead of investing the money they bought a house with a 3.5% FHA loan when rates were a little under 5%. Since 08-09 the CS index is up about 5% and interest rates are more like 5.2% now. So since the FHA loan is transferable you can treat it like a bond and say that you are also up ~3% on you loan. So in total you invested ~3.5% and made ~8%. Which if I am doing my math correctly is a 229% profit.
NVC,If you don't understand it, I don't think my personal experience or conditions are going to explain it to you.When we were just in the process of building it, yes, it was invested. Until a little after the peak in the stock market when we pulled it into high interest savings. (missed the peak, but got out well before the worst crashes)Why wasn't it invested while we were shopping? 1) How were we to know how long it would take us to find a place?2) I had no faith whatsoever that last spring's bottoms in the stock market or the housing market would hold. Why were we home shopping? Because in my section of FFX Cnty, buying was either cheaper than renting, or a wash. Rental parity on a monthly basis had been reached. So, since life-wise it was a good time to buy, and renting wasn't saving us money, we went ahead and bought.One could put it another way. I don't trust myself to make good short term "investments". I suck at that. Big time. So while you claim average return was 197%, I scoff. (a) because I flat out don't believe your off the cuff uncited number, and (b) trust me, if there was a way to lose money, I would have found it.The only way I know to accumulate money is to save it out of income. That I'm good at. That we were and continue to do at a goodly clip. Of course I also didn't buy a half a freaking million dollar house.Regular joe's like me are not investors. We invest where we have to with our retirement funds. Other than that, I have neither the stomach nor the wealth cushion to be cavalier.
Nova- You can also always use your downpayment in a better way. In 2006 you could have shorted AAA suprime CDOs and made a more than 1000% over the next couple of years. Before that you could have bet that energy drink Monster would become popular, which made about 40K% from 1996-2006. Microsoft made ~10K% from 1986-1996.Did you invest all of your money in these at the correct time? If not why didn't you. The obvious reason is that you had no idea what the market was going to do until it already happened. Looking backward and asking someone why they didn't pick the right strategy is absurd.
NVC- To Cara's point if you are saying we should have invested in your fund what is its name so I can check its return. Like her I don't believe you and your risk metrics look terrible based on how far you are from peak. I am also in the industry and based on how naive a lot of your comments are I would recommend that no one here should take any financial advice from you.
The Anonymous:OK, I will debate you even on your own terms. Using your same analogy let's compare a person who bought a home in 2007 vs. someone who invested in the market. Homebuyer bought at peak and probably lost the value of their down payment plus tens of thousands of dollars more in overall value. And that value is still lost to this day and as Kevin said will probably not recover for another decade.While a market investor at that time sees their portfolio get halved or more in 2008 but then saw it rise again to say a total of a few grand loss today. The fact is that even if you use your same analogy the investor in the market since 2007 has done much better than a home buyer.
Housebuyer:I really do not understand what you are trying to do there? Are you saying that someone who bought a home in 08-09 and put down 50k can now cash out and get back $114.5k?
Cara,I know you just bought a home and I am sorry if what I am writing seems to be a direct attack on you. But my comments were directed to the board as a whole, thus the reason I did not start it off with "Cara".I hope you are happy in your new home and that things work out great for you. I would rather not debate you directly on this issue because it may seem like its getting personal since you just bought a home and can now do nothing about it, and I respect you too much for that.So if you wish to ask any questions I would love to talk to you about them. But with that said please enjoy your new home!
Housebuyer,You are telling me that your funds have not increased at around 80-100% since the market bottomed? I have had some double over that time. The market bottomed at around 7k and is now over 11k. That is an increase of 175% over that time. If you are doubting a 92% number over that time you should really re-think how you are investing.
Cara Wrote:"So while you claim average return was 197%, I scoff."Where did I write that number? I scoff at that number too since I wrote nearly half that...
Nova- I will put some numbers so it is a little more clear. If a person put down ~$21K to buy a 600K house they ended up with an FHA loan that is 579K. The case-shiller index says that houses in DC went up ~5% last year so their house is now worth 630K. The person also used a loan which is transferable. So since interest rates have have risen ~0.3% the value of this debt would fall 3%-4% (I forget what the duration of a 30 year 5% bond is). So your debt is now worth ~560K. So your assets minus liabilities = 630-560 = 70k. So you have turned 21k into 70k which is ~230% profit.Since Cara bought at rental parity you do not need to worry about additional payments to own the house since you would have paid the same amount to rent a place.
Cara: *SPANK*SPANK*SPANK*youknowwho: OWowOWowOWowwwwwWWW!LOL...
Nova- So first you are assuming everyone timed the market perfectly to the day, which is an absurd assumption second turning 7k into 11k is a 57% return, which makes me wonder how you are calculating your numbers. Also this index hedge fund returns shows that most hedge funds are not up nearly that much over the past year. The average fund is up 23%.
Housebuyer,Makes sense, and since you are addressing Cara's situation directly I will not comment any further on it.
"NVC said...The Anonymous:OK, I will debate you even on your own terms. Using your same analogy let's compare a person who bought a home in 2007 vs. someone who invested in the market." For starters, I would appreciate it if you would answer my prior question -- why would anyone who wanted to buy at market bottom (March 2009) have put their precious down payment money in the stock market and ride it straight to hell? How can you guarantee the money will "be there" for them when they need to spend it on a down payment?Further, even if we take your example, lets go by my market, Arlington, VA, and my (intended) 250K down payment.From 2007 til today, the average Arlington house has lost about 6% of its value. Thus an 800K house in 2007 is worth 752K today. So my 250K would be worth 202K or would have lost roughly -19%.By contrast the dow is what 22, 23% off its late 2007 highs? If so, my 250K investment that I rode to the bottom and back up to today would be worth 195K.So basically, had I followed your advice, my 250K would be 195K, and had I bought, my 250K would be worth 202K. In sum by NOT buying in 2007, I am 7,000 worse off!!!This is cherry picking of course, and Arlington is a very unique market in terms of its lack of decline. However, mine is very much a real world example (and yet another reminder of how the universe is out to screw me). Still, the point stands, had I done what you said, I still would have been worse off by going into the stock market than buying.
Sorry to bring up old topics but I wanted to follow up on thisMozart saidShouse Village is still quite nice. The houses get snapped up quickly, since (1) they are close to Tysons; (2) in a prestige school pyramid (Colvin Run/Longfellow/McLean); and (3) actually less expensive than the other houses in the immediate area, which tend to be newer and/or larger.Anyone know where the closest strip mall or equivalent with a grocery store would be for this area? (This is near the intersection of Route 7 and Trap Road). I think I recall reading a review of this area a while back in the WaPo real estate section. Apparently one issue they face are traffic jams caused by McLean Bible Church. (Of course there are traffic jams on Rt 7 Mon-Fri but that is something the average buyer would realize.)
The Anonymous saidWho said "immune"? Immune means nothing happens. Arl had 4 years of losses. Slight, but losses nonetheless. And therein lies the mistake you (and so many others) made. Its not like it was doing fine while the rest of the area suffered -- its not like it was just hitting later. It was being hit the whole time, but since the losses were so slight, people couldnt accept that thats all there was to it.This is incorrect. Most homes in Arlington (like many in nicer parts of DC and Fairfax County) were flat to slightly up in 2006 and 2007.
"TBW said...This is incorrect. Most homes in Arlington (like many in nicer parts of DC and Fairfax County) were flat to slightly up in 2006 and 2007."TBW -- stats? All I am going by is the median annual stats provided by MRIS. These show that for the year, Arlington declined -3.4% on a YOY basis in 2006, and -1.4% on a YOY basis in 2007.
CRT saidAlso, FWIW, if you take into account the huge runup in prices the first part of the decade and the rundown in the second part, the total performance for the decade (2000-2009)is as follows:Arlington +106%Alexandria +104%Fairfax +69%Loudoun +60%PWC +43%Where did you get your Arlington numbers? They do not seem to describe the Metro corridors:Take this:http://franklymls.com/AR7313254 condo near Ballston Metro2002 sold price: $295k2003 assessment: $300k2004 sold price: $475k2005 assessment: $434k2000 assessment: $148k2010 asking: $550kThat's 3.71x the price. Even if we assume the 2000 assessment was below the price you would have gotten in 1999 it still is going to end up being a 3.1-3.4x gain most likely.I can give you a million examples like this. Basically take any property near the Orange or Blue line, look at the tax records, and prepared to be outraged by how low the 2000 assessment is. Even if you boost the 2000 assessment by 10-15% to account for possible underassessment.This is one of many reasons I gave up on Arlington. Even in the best neighborhoods of Fairfax County I seldom see anything worse than 2x the price in 2000. And lately it's usually more like 1.8x. So maybe your numbers are fair for the county as a whole but it gives a really misguided view of how much prices increased in the Metro corridors.
The Anonymous,How about this chart that is based on sales in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax.2005 - $537,1162006 - $537,7412007 - $538,463I also recall reading tons of articles in 2007 and early 2008 where they cited the resiliency (perhaps some even said immunity) of Arlington and DC as an example of how much people wanted smart growth blah blah blah. There were tons of articles in 2007 and 2008 arguing the price declines in Loudoun and Prince William came from $4 gas and the costs of heating and A/Cing McMansions.
The Anonymous,Here is Washington Post's 2007 outlook on real estate. It has maps showing the change in median price by zip code in Arlington and Alexandria between 2005 and 2006:LinkIt just is not true 2006 was a bad year for Arlington.
and here's a snippet from the 2008 report looking at 2007:Arlington County, VirginiaAmong Northern Virginia counties, Arlington was the clear winner in 2007.While prices fell in the rest of the counties, Arlington had an increase in the median price of single-family houses and townhouses -- up about 3 percent, to $580,000, the highest in the region. Condominium sales were not included. The number of sales remained about the same, according to a Washington Post analysis of government data. LinkSo the downturn only got going in Arlington in 2008.
TBW, you seem to be mixing data a bit in your replies.The WaPo #s clearly state that they don't include condos. Condos probably went down more than SFHs (and possibly up more before that). So that may be one factor that could reconcile your differences with The Anon.You then give an example of a condo. But that's not included in the WaPo #s.You have to compare apples to apples. If you are going to used assessed value at the start in 2000, that's what you should use at the end. It's an unfair comparison to use 2000 assessed value (which was probably well under FMV in 2000; most values lagged quite a bit then) and then use an asking price in 2010. Note that the 2010 assessed value ($390K) is MUCH lower than the asking price. And the asking price is probably higher than the expected sales price. Finally, there were likely some expensive updates during 2000-2010. Not too many condos had maple cabinets in 2010 but the description includes mention of these, and the appliances look new, so my guess is that they put in a new kitchen, but that could be wrong. And as we've all said many times, taking one example is not as useful and getting all the data, because we have no way of knowing how representative one data point is.Taking all these factors into account, my estimate is that this particular condo may have gone up as much as 140% in FMV but at least 10 percentage points of that is attributable to improvements during that time that make the condo a nicer place than what it was in 2000.
TBW -- in addition to the points made by Ace, I think you are missing my larger point I was trying to impress upon Pat. from 2000-2005 Arl, Alex, FFx, LOU & PWC all went up roughly 20% YOY.from 2006-2009, the gains were arrested dead in their tracks. In the worst of these areas, it was out and out declines. In the best it was very slight increases, but more likely decreases. None of them posted +20% YOY gains like they did before. They all had the worst performance any of them had seen in nearly 20 years.In 2009-2010, all have seen modest recoveries.Now, we have 2 possible explanations for this activitiy.(A) its moving in/it hasnt happened yet, meaning the best of these areas will (eventually) see declines similar to those seen in the rest of the area. or(B) all areas have been hit more or less simultaneously, yet thanks to improving metrics, such as income gains and demographic shifts, some areas are going to dramatically outperform the others.I think its B. Pat still seems to thinks its A and he will not give up on A until 2012 when (if the big "it" hasnt happened yet), he will concede its B.I switched from A to B in 2007. The majority of this blog switched from A to B in 2008 (or simply ran away rather than admit they were wrong). Even you yourself have an expiration date where (if the big "it" hasnt happened yet in Vienna) you will buy in 2011 (I think). This is good because those who dont switch and who stubbornly refuse to look at all the evidence are going to miss out. Not to continually pick on Contrarian, but if this blog is here in 2016, I can all but guarantee you he will be here, muttering, its moving in, its moving in. No amount of time will ever change his mind.For the rest of us who want to move on with our lives, its best to have a date certain where we can say "I guess I was wrong" and move on. Thats all I was trying to say.
Anon,I agree with you completely. Turnover and demographics predicted the areas that would be killed - and price acceleration.Garbage in bad areas tripled as far as I could see; hence Manassas, Herndon, S. Reston, etc. Not all areas of these and other locales, but definitely the low end was way out of whack.Upper priced homes have declined in many areas but not nearly to the extent of the low-end and new construction where turnover was high during the time period of liar loans.I think 2 houses sold in my neighborhood during the peak years. How many are underwater AND in desperate need to sell?tbw,Shouse shopping involves taking the backway down to Vienna (past Wolftrap? - I can't recall). You end up a few blocks from Giant on uncongested roads. Not a bad drive, but not the best. I'm sure they must have upgraded the Giant and other shopping in the 17 yrs since I used this route. It's not the most convenient for 7-11 or fast food.
tiredbubblewatcher said... Anyone know where the closest strip mall or equivalent with a grocery store would be for this area? (This is near the intersection of Route 7 and Trap Road). I think I recall reading a review of this area a while back in the WaPo real estate section. Apparently one issue they face are traffic jams caused by McLean Bible Church. (Of course there are traffic jams on Rt 7 Mon-Fri but that is something the average buyer would realize.)They also get terrible traffic jams whenever there are events at Wolftrap. I occasionally get assigned the Colvin Run ES gym for basketball and have had to sit through that a couple of times. The whole time I was thinking how horrible it must be to see that kind of traffic just to get out of your driveway.
Jeremy,You are correct in that the mega church produces a traffic nightmare on weekends and workday traffic is terrible. That is why I would suggest Wolf Trap Woods or Dunn Loring.I would avoid entering Tysons unless I was very close by.
Texas Native,The most humourous to me was that by the time I had written it three others had jumped in to my defense and actually did a more cogent job of it.NVC,Yeah I bought in Jan 2010, so the only losses so far are the ghost "losses" of not having made spectacular gains with my DP while we were taking "forever" to figure out what kind of house to buy. Of course when we started looking we only had $45k, and by the time we bought we had $80k which we put in the downpayment, so I think my sure-fire method of just save more beats any gambling method hands down. Zero risk, known reward. But not everyone can save $35k in a year, just as not everyone has access to hedge funds.But in any case, yes, my random experience is indeed not a good test case to be judging the merits or failings of investing money that one knows will be needed sometime in the near foreseeable future in an investment that involves risk to the principal. You apparently feel that any chunk of money that one has should be allowed to grow or shrink with the markets regardless of the timeframe in which one needs that money. The consensus of the board appears to strongly disagree with you.
"Cara said...You apparently feel that any chunk of money that one has should be allowed to grow or shrink with the markets regardless of the timeframe in which one needs that money."Exactly. The other thing I noted (although he did not explicitly say this) is that its never a good time to buy a home because there is always a better return on your money out there somewhere. That or to buy if/when returns on homes exceed everything else. If so the best time to buy was 2004-2006, yet we know how that one turned out.Thats a good thing to be aware of regardless. A home is never a good investment vehicle. You buy not because you are banking on returns, you buy because you want some place to live. It is at best a hedge (vs inflation, etc.), but hedges are in essence a bet on the unknown. If you invest X% on stocks, and Y% on real estate (or commodities or whatever) one of them is always going to outperform the other. In a perfect world, you would always be 100% invested in the most profitable investment (even if that meant renting forever). Since this is not a perfect world and we cannot know which investment will be best we diversify and do not always make the best use of our money.Such is life.
TBW - Re Shouse: there are no grocery/convenience stores on that stretch of Route 7, so the residents either head west on Route 7 to Reston, go to McLean (via Lewinsville/Great Falls) or head down Beulah Road to the Giant/Whole Foods in Vienna. I used to live not too far from Shouse, and didn't regularly experience the horrible traffic tie-ups others have described. For someone driving to DC, this area is still considerably more convenient than, say, Oakton or Oak Hill. But, then again, we chose not to buy in Shouse Village or one of the other neighborhoods that is right off Route 7, but instead closer to the Town of Vienna.
TBW - For the sake of completeness, I should add that there is now a Harris Teeter in Tysons itself, so could be some Shouse folks do their grocery shopping there.
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