Charlottesville Area Real Estate Market Report – 3rd Quarter 2009

As with most everything when looking the Charlottesville area real estate market, look for the trends, rather than the specific data points. The Nest Report is coming shortly as is the market report I do every quarter.

Top-level numbers are misleading at best and deceptive at worst. I firmly believe that high-level analyses tend to influence buyer and seller psychology more than provide specific insight. Real estate is local, granular in some cases, and to get a real feel for the market, it is crucial to understand what happens in Northern Albemarle County (22911) may be very different than what happens in the Crozet real estate market (22932)* and the Lake Monticello (22963) market is different than the Afton (22920) market.

But … look for trends and let me know what further questions you have. There’s a whole lot left to analyze in the coming days …

The following is provided by the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors:

Where Are We Now?

Home sales, compared to 2008, showed improvement in the 3rd Quarter. At mid-year, sales were down 28%, but after the first 9 months of the year, sales are only 19% below the 2008 levels. In the third quarter, sales (845) were only down 6.2% from the same period in 2008 (901). This is the smallest year over year decline we have seen in several quarters in the Charlottesville area. July and August monthly sales were very close to 2008 levels, but September fell back a bit.

As reported in the CAAR Mid-Year Market Report, significantly lower home prices (down 20% or more) are driving the pick-up in sales. In addition, the $8,000 tax credit for first time buyers has supercharged the sale of starter homes (below $300,000). 65% of home sales in the third quarter were in this starter home category, which is consistent with the overall trend for the entire year. The surge in first-time buyers is also a national trend.

Home Sales for the First Nine Months

There were 2,001 homes sold in the Charlottesville area during the first nine months of 2009, which was down 19.1% (-471 sales) from 2008. All local areas are still down from last year: Albemarle -5.4%, Charlottesville -27.4%, Fluvanna -25.3%, Greene -7.7%, Louisa -28.9%, Nelson -25.8%, and Orange -25.5%. Monthly sales for the region had improved slightly each month since November 2008, but that string was broken in August due to normal seasonal swings.

Sales in the Central Valley region were generated from the Greater Augusta MLS, which has more complete data on the Valley market than the CAAR MLS. Sales were down in the Valley by 18.5 % compared to last year.

Have Home Prices Dropped?

Based on the data from the CAAR MLS, we believe that the numbers clearly show a significant decrease in home prices. The median prices listed below are the middle of the market of properties that sold. Simply put, this is an indication of what buyers were willing/able to pay and is not a true reflection of individual home prices. It is probably safe to assume that a steady, year- to-year decrease in the median price is a good indication that prices are going down, but it is not an exact measurement.

We believe the numbers displayed below provide compelling evidence that our local real estate market has experienced a noteworthy drop in home prices. The CAAR market reports have been discussing this trend since the Fall of 2007, and this report shows more evidence of the decline. The one caveat that we need to make is that part of this median price decline is a reflection of an increase in home sales in the lower price ranges. Of the 845 homes that sold in the 3rd quarter, 545 were sold for $300,000 or less. This surge in the lower end of the market will naturally pull the median price down.

Overall, the median home price (including attached homes) declined $17,100 (-6.4%) compared to the first nine months of last year. For the first time, the quarterly report shows that the area median price actually dropped below the 2005 median price. All areas covered in this report showed a decline except for Nelson, which remained flat. Median price changes for each locality were as follows: Albemarle (-9.5%), Charlottesville (-6.8%), Fluvanna (-17.1%), Greene (- 4.5%), Louisa (-16.7%), Nelson (0%), Orange (-28.7%) and the Valley (-8.7%).

2009 CAAR Market Report – 3rd Quarter

* I’m testing something with the Charlottesville zip codes, please bear with me.

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