2018 was another solid year for local real estate. Here in Williamsburg, closed sales finished up 5% for the year, on top of a 2% increase in 2017. The final quarter slowed down slightly, with pending sales down almost 2%.
We are entering 2019 with less than 4 months of active inventory, and homes selling, on average, in only 30 days. On average, sellers accepted offers at over 98% of their asking price last year. That is good news for sellers who are priced properly and in good condition, or for prospective sellers who are thinking about diving into the market. Nationwide, most markets are experiencing inventory shortages, which is the single biggest factor keeping a lid on the number of sales.
The exception here is the luxury market, where sellers need to be significantly more patient – there is currently 18 months of inventory priced at $750,000 and up in Greater Williamsburg.
Prices remained remarkably steady during the past 12 months, with the median sales price in Williamsburg slightly above $300,000 for most of the year and finishing up at $310,000.
Here is what I see in the coming 12 months:
A shortage of listings has been our biggest challenge for the past 18 months. My expectation is that we will continue to see more listings come on the market as we move into the Spring. We have seen a significant jump in new listings over the past few months, signaling that wise sellers recognize the importance of beating the competition to the Spring market.
As the typical Spring seasonal demand builds, consumers will realize that moves need to be made ASAP in order to take advantage of a 9 year streak of historically low rates and home values. It’s important to note that the market can shift quickly, and it will not surprise me to see a highly competitive Spring season for homes selling below $500,000. Interest rates will continue a slow and steady climb this year.
Interest rates have been perplexing over the past 12 months. Most predicted the inevitable ascent would begin as the economy gained steam, but rates remained lower than predicted, most likely because the feds were hesitant to do anything that might inhibit the momentum of the recovery.
I believe that 2019 will be the year that interest rates incrementally increase, but the question remains by how much and how frequently. The good news is that this is a sure sign of a strengthening economy, but the bad news is that each hike raises the bar on home affordability. My prediction is that this will add some urgency to the market this year, particularly in the lower price ranges.
Prices will finally begin to show improvement in many neighborhoods. Prices are neighborhood specific, and some areas are definitely improving faster than others. Appreciation was relatively flat in the Greater Williamsburg market last year (with the median sold price down just over 1%), and I expect will continue to trend toward more normal appreciation rates (4 to 5%) in 2019 and beyond.
If a home purchase is on your New Year resolution list, buy early in the year, as interest rates have a much greater impact than most realize. For instance, waiting for prices to drop 5% to save $12,500 on a $250,000 purchase may cost you an extra $225 per month in payments; if rates increase from 4% to 5.5%, then your payment increases from $1194 to $1419. For most buyers, the affordability index of monthly payments is a more critical consideration.
We were fortunate to participate in 1 out of every 6 home sales in greater Williamsburg in 2018, insuring our position as the #1 agency in the local market. Your support and referrals are much appreciated, and we promise to deliver the extraordinary client experience that has become our hallmark!
*All stats based on Broker Metrics for WMLS, 23188, 23185, and 23186 residential home sales in 2018
If you are looking to buy or sell a home this year, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to help!