Reston, VA

Housing options have been limited, but local agents say the real estate market in Fairfax County is staying active as it continuously adapts to the pandemic

While COVID-19 is having an impact on the market in a variety of ways, housing inventory was already limited in the area before the pandemic.

“It’s really hard to find a single-family home or even townhouse. Many of the homes get multiple offers because inventory is so low,” said Laura Schwartz, a real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc.

Schwartz – whose focus is in Northern Virginia – describes a market in which buyers have to be “willing to get aggressive” in their efforts to win a bid for a home. She also points out that the pursuit of homes has resulted in a fair number of ‘coming soon’ properties receiving pre-market offers, sight unseen.

Preparation has taken a key role in entering a seller’s market. Having a pre-approval in hand, pre-offer inspections, escalation clauses and other ways of making an offer competitive have become crucial necessities.

The buyer’s activity is something echoed by Dave Adams, a realtor for Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate. Adams, who, along with his wife JoAnne, specializes in northern Virginia and the DC Metro area, continues to see homes coming onto the market without COVID-19 seriously impacting home availability or supply.

Adams has witnessed buyers remain active, as low-interest rates have settled in. As a result of the rates and limited housing supply, Adams said that most listings have seen multiple offers above the list price, as well as many contingencies being waved.

After three months of decreased sales compared to last year in Fairfax County, the county has enjoyed a resurgence of home buying as sales increased in July (+4.52%) and August (+14.55%), according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR).

“The traditional spring market has been delayed to the summer months, and the pent-up buyer and seller demand that began in in late spring continued full force into July,” NVAR 2020 President Nicholas Lagos said in August.

Supply or buying tactics are not the only affected areas of the market. The methodology of showing homes to prospective buyers has taken on new challenges.

On the seller’s side, there is no general rule of thumb for behavior. Each seller will maintain their own particular reasons and inclinations for how homes are shown, as well as how long the property is listed.

Adams points to the cultivation of a greater digital presence in aiding the home buying process – specifically, increased virtual showings and video conferencing to ensure the safety of all parties.

“The highlight of our year was quickly adapting and setting up our business to thrive in a pandemic,” Adams said.

“We have always embraced state-of-the-art technology; however, the way we used it changed.”

Schwartz highlighted the restrictions of physical showings. Many instructions curtail the list of individuals allowed to tour inside homes to those on a contract and the agent. This has restricted kids or other family members from joining home tours, and has resulted in parents having to take turns touring homes.

Remote learning responsibilities and people working from home have also required a greater bit of flexibility on all parties to allow for homes to be shown to prospective buyers.

“You just need to be prepared to act, be in constant communication, and know your must-haves so you’re comfortable taking action,” Schwartz said.

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