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A Real Estate Market Turnaround In Prince William

By Greg L | 18 April 2008 | Local Economy | 28 Comments

For the second month in a row, the residential real estate market in Prince William County seem to be bucking the regional trend of a continued decrease in the number of existing home sales according to an article in today’s Washington Times.  In February, Prince William County was the only jurisdiction to not see a decrease in year-over-year home sales.  In March of 2008, Prince William County home sales jumped 65% over March 2007 and is even higher than March 2006 sales, while Fairfax saw a 10% decline in sales.  This confirms anecdotal evidence I’ve been getting that the real estate market in Prince William County may be turning around.

There was only one sign of revival last month. While sales were down in March throughout the entire Washington-Baltimore area, Prince William saw another surprising surge in home sales last month.

Sales were 65 percent higher than in March 2007. Of course, sales in Prince William were still lower than in 2005 — but that’s the case everywhere else, too.
Why would Prince William County show signs of an early recovery from the real estate slump?

It probably has something to do with that 30 percent drop in median sales prices posted last month. The median price of an existing home in Prince William was only $260,000 in March — a drop of $110,000 compared to March 2007.

Prince William County has certainly seen a rapid drop in prices, much of which was fueled by the concentrated wave of foreclosures that has hit the county over the past several years.  With this supply of increasingly affordable housing, Prince William has become a rather attractive market for bargain hunters who have a big inventory to choose from.  Another factor that is much harder to quantify, but is certainly significant, is the recovery of a number of neighborhoods from rampant residential overcrowding and apparent gang activity that plagued them, and the resulting dramatic improvement in the quality of life in many area communities.  It is tremendously difficult to sell a house in a bad neighborhood, almost no matter how cheaply you price it.

Local professionals in the real estate business are awfully busy these days, processing the remaining foreclosures moving through the system but also managing these new conventional sales.  One person in the real estate title business I know has had to turn off her cell phone during the day and is logging about twelve hours a day.  Real estate agents can be seen in a number of neighborhoods actually escorting families around properties for sale, which has been a pretty rare sight during the past year.  New neighbors are starting to pop up.  The indicators for a recovery, both anecdotal and statistical, are definitely appearing.

With about eleven months of inventory available, it’s still pretty early to declare the local residential real estate bust over.  With Prince William leading the regional market for two months in a row it certainly seems like that declaration is a lot closer to being made than it appeared only a few months ago, however.

This change will be very welcome news to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and the Manassas City Council, which may just possibly have enough time to take this new information into account before approving the fiscal 2008 budget.  Real estate transactions contribute a pretty substantial revenue stream to local government, and a stabilization of real estate values and the assessments derived from them will definitely brighten the revenue forecast for 2008.  Not only is this going to benefit homeowners who have been disturbed by the decrease they’ve seen in the equity of their homes, but it will make it a lot easier to fund local schools, public safety, and other government programs that residents rely on.

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  1. Advocator said on 18 Apr 2008 at 1:00 pm:
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    Could it be that the sales figures are higher simply because there are more units available? Wouldn’t a more valid comparison be one that gives the average time lapsed from a unit being place on the market to the time it sells?

  2. Johnson said on 18 Apr 2008 at 1:05 pm:
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    I’m glad that the housing market is picking up. More proof that the initiatives are working. No businesses are failing that weren’t failing before.

  3. park'd said on 18 Apr 2008 at 1:07 pm:
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    haha riiiiight Greg…….

    I don’t know anybody that would live in PWC or the 2 cities that already lives somewhere else. We still have the worst reputation as the area where illegals and underachievers live. We are farrrr from a turnaround in this area. My neighborhood is like that quickly changing national debt clock in New York City, except for the values go down instead of up. Every day I see awesome little quaint houses in good neighborhoods on 1/4 acre lots in Alexandria for sale for 300k and here I am stuck in the park with no way to sell my home and upside down to boot. As far as I’m concerned, the park lost me as a citizen the day they sent me that 33% overvalued tax assessment in February. That was criminal imo and unforgivable. No, we have just begun to see the pain out here. I sure hope I’m wrong, but from the data I’ve seen it doesn’t look like it.

  4. MP Resident said on 18 Apr 2008 at 1:51 pm:
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    “As far as I’m concerned, the park lost me as a citizen the day they sent me that 33% overvalued tax assessment in February.”

    Oh, you missed the best part..that woman from the school board who said on Tuesday during citizens time that “Nobody could have predicted what happened with the housing market”.

    No, maybe you couldn’t have predicted what happened with the housing market, but the writing was on the wall 2 years ago.

  5. park'd said on 18 Apr 2008 at 2:02 pm:
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    Of course they knew what was going to happen. We had begged them for years to take steps to do something about all the illegal aliens in the city before it was too late and they call us racists for our concerns. What do they expect when an entire city gets taken over by illegal aliens with no ties to the community, no accountability and all of them reliant on the same type of industry? Just look at the surnames on the foreclosure lists and they are almost entirely of Hispanic descent. As far as I am concerned, the mayor and city council are solely responsible for this entire mess. Sending out bogus, overinflated tax assessments as a last ditch effort to keep the city from bankruptcy is exactly what it is. What are they going to pull next year when they will have no choice but to send out current assessments? Raise the rate to $2.00 per $100 assessed?? That’s the only way they will save this city this time next year. These guys ran the city into the ground by their tax and spend ways and now that the well has run dry they are scrambling and thanking God that the market didn’t really collapse until mid January. Asking the citizens to pay for their mismanagement is just criminal and preposterous. I would say it’s time to institute a recall but I don’t think that anyone else would want the job now that they screwed up the city so bad.

  6. Advocator said on 18 Apr 2008 at 2:31 pm:
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    I think you gotta walk.

  7. Greg L said on 18 Apr 2008 at 2:35 pm:
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    park’d and MP, the only thing that’s going to get the park in on the recovery, which I agree is not happening there, is to affect political change. Throw the bums out, retrocede into Prince William, or whatever. You will wait forever for things to turn around to the point you can “pop smoke” and get extracted, but that’s not going to happen with the current crew in place.

    The only way to save yourselves is to save Manassas Park first.

  8. AWCheney said on 18 Apr 2008 at 2:40 pm:
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    What you are forgetting, Park’d, is that those of you in Manassas Park who are suffering now, are suffering because you have done NOTHING to deal with a corrupt government that still does little to stem the tide of illegal aliens in their jurisdiction and are continuing to spend like they’re living in an economic boom…taxing commensurately! I can recall that, during the peak of the “Rack N’ Roll” scandal, many of us in the County begged for some of you to come forward and start a recall movement to rid yourselves of the true blight which is your City Council, and we offered to provide you any assistance that you required. No one came forward. What you are suffering now, as your neighbors are beginning to experience relief, is the consequences of your own apathy.

    A community which does not become pro-active in its own government (people rarely even vote in the Park) and demand their rights from their public servants do, themselves, become the servants. We demand that the illegal aliens take responsibility for their own actions…the same applies to us all!

  9. Mr. Anon said on 18 Apr 2008 at 2:41 pm:
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    Speaking for PWC, we don’t want the Park. No offense, but I don’t see how “retrocession” of these problems the writers mention would benefit the county. Perhaps we have no choice; I don’t know how the system actually works.

    Here’s a better idea; why not have the Park merge with Manassas city?

  10. park'd said on 18 Apr 2008 at 3:07 pm:
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    Guys that might all be true but who is going to run for office here now??? Only a fool would take on the economic problems of this city now that these clowns have destroyed it. A recall would be fine and dandy, but unless someone is willing and most importantly ABLE to deal with the management malfeasance of the current crew then what is that going to solve? Those of us that were left have been begging for years for the council to do something about all of the illegals here but we were called racists and xenophobes by them and brushed off like common houseflies. I just want some accountability for this mess we are in; from the city government, the lenders and the people that walked. A class action that sues all of them would make my day, even if I never see a red cent. Just knowing that they were paying through the nose for their corruption and malfeasance in this scandal would make me smile.

    My sister also lives in PWC in Bristow and her house is still dropping as well although I don’t know at what rate. I just don’t think a turnaround is happening. It could be my usual sunny outlook on things /sarcasm but I think not.

  11. Mando said on 18 Apr 2008 at 3:38 pm:
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    I live in Yorkshire (VERY close to the Park), and I am actually starting to see and hear of some positive changes. The two flop houses are still operating in front of me, but I’m beginning to feel a little more positive.

    Manassas City schools has recently started a campaign to offer teachers and support staff some incentives to move to the city to fill up the vacant homes.

    Also, from information I’m getting, I strongly believe we’ll see another exodus over the summer once school ends.

    Were not very far into this thing and we’re seeing some positives already.

  12. CityResident said on 18 Apr 2008 at 4:06 pm:
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    What makes you think in Manassas City we’d want Manassas Park either? Kind of arrogant for someone from PWC to suggest that since PWC doesn’t want it, give it to Manassas City!

  13. me-n-u said on 18 Apr 2008 at 4:06 pm:
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    park’d- You sound like a good candidate!

  14. MP Resident said on 18 Apr 2008 at 5:24 pm:
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    “We had begged them for years to take steps to do something about all the illegal aliens in the city before it was too late and they call us racists for our concerns.”

    I am really, really disappointed with Fran Kassinger for that. Well, that and a whole bunch of other things. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    “Guys that might all be true but who is going to run for office here now???”

    The same old tired retreads, apparently: Bryan “Never met a tax he didn’t like” Polk, Frank “Boss Hog” Jones, and Cynde “Wallflower” Gardner.

  15. MP Resident said on 18 Apr 2008 at 5:24 pm:
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    Oh lets not forget Bill “lost my paperwork” Treuting.

  16. MP Resident said on 18 Apr 2008 at 5:26 pm:
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    “Kind of arrogant for someone from PWC to suggest that since PWC doesn’t want it, give it to Manassas City!”

    I don’t believe PWC would have any choice in the matter if the legal procedures were followed to transition from city to town status (step 1) and annul the town charter (step 2).

  17. park'd said on 18 Apr 2008 at 5:44 pm:
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    No thanks for me running for any office here. These guys have it so screwed up now that nobody with a brain would touch it with a ten foot pole. If they are barely able to pay the bills now with assessments that are at least 33% overvalued then what’s going to happen next year when they have to base assessments on sales from this year which so far are abysmal and are shockingly lower than most of us paid for our houses years ago? They managed to scrounge out another year before all the $h1t hit the fan, but next year the gig is up. You can bet that they are all huddling around behind closed doors wondering wtf they are going to do next year and trying to figure out an exit strategy for themselves. Without a SUBSTANTIAL raise of the tax rate next year to around $2.00 per $100 assessed value they will never be able to make ends meet. Simple accounting tells you that. If they try to raise the rate that high then they will have a full out riot on their hands and will have more press than they can imagine. Nope, short of a major miracle in Manassas Park real estate (hahaha) this city is done come April ‘09. They overspent and underplanned and real estate took a dive to the cellar well beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, even my own. You heard it here first folks.

  18. Big Dog said on 18 Apr 2008 at 5:53 pm:
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    There is no financial benefit for either PWC or Manassas
    City to join with Manassas Park — unless someone
    finds gold or oil under the MP football field. This isn’t
    about the fine citizens of MP — it is about money
    and the cost/benefits for PWC or Manassas City.

    But PWC might have to take MP back if the Park
    opted to revert from city staus to that of a town.
    It would become like Dumfies (currently the largest
    town in PWC). Believe Emporia is the most recent
    Virginia jurisdiction to take this step.

  19. MP Resident said on 18 Apr 2008 at 7:58 pm:
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    “No thanks for me running for any office here. These guys have it so screwed up now that nobody with a brain would touch it with a ten foot pole.”

    I think anyone who would run for office would have to promise to turn the city into a town.

  20. Anonymous said on 18 Apr 2008 at 9:31 pm:
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    This Credit Suisse chart shows the highest number of ARM for the subprime market should hit this summer, meaning there should be even more properties available in preforeclosure or bank owned in the third and fourth quarter of the year. I think Greg’s assessment may be overly rosy, since I doubt the government will step in until after the election, if at all.

  21. Bob Wills said on 18 Apr 2008 at 11:26 pm:
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    If you think for one moment that this RE problem is going to get better this year you are a fool. It will be a couple of years before any recovery and then it will be at a very slow pace. You are starting to sound more and more like Stewart and he knows nothing about what he is doing.

  22. Floodguy said on 18 Apr 2008 at 11:58 pm:
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    It only seems that way Greg, because the bottom fell out of the home values, more so than other counties. If this continues, this only indicates that those who see these as good deals, probably couldn’t afford a place like Fairfax County, for example. This county was hit worse than all other counties in Nova in my opinion. There is still a long way to go before the supply is returned to normal.

  23. NOVArenter said on 19 Apr 2008 at 7:14 am:
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    I’ve been actively shopping for a house in PWC lately, and I think the bottom is in (or close to it). The houses that are selling are like the paper reported, 30% below last year’s prices. Really, they are down that much from December. There are a lot of listings that will never sell at their current price. These are both overpriced homes (that couldn’t appraise for that amount even if you had an idiot buyer) and short sales that have no chance of bank approval, but are listed low to get action to get the bank to show it’s hand and give a counteroffer.

    I would go so far as to say, of homes priced within 10% of the last 90 days market price (sold homes) there is only a 2-3 month supply. Granted, I only looked at a few elementary school districts.

    All of the housing bubble blogs said home prices would bottom out when house to price/rent/income ratios were back to historical norms; that is what PWC has achieved. If they drop any lower, investors will snap them up because even at today’s market price, they are cash flow positive from day one (assuming 100% financing or return on invested equity above market interest).

  24. Freedom said on 19 Apr 2008 at 8:02 am:
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    AWC @ 2:40, I agree with you completely…and the apathy shown by the residents of Manassas Park (”we’re comfortable, they’ll take care of us, no need to worry”) is the same thing that threatens our entire country. :(

  25. Not4Nothing said on 19 Apr 2008 at 8:35 am:
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    If the people buying houses in PWC are individuals and families who are planning to LIVE in them, this is good news. If they are “investors”, it could be not so good news.

    If I were in the market for a SFH or TH, I’d wait awhile and give the crack-down time to really work its magic before buying one in PWC. What I’d be afaid of is that ACLU, etc would succeed in getting the crack-down halted or the PWC officials would lose their will in the face of pressure over costs, “bad” publicity, etc and call a halt or simply stop funding it.

    If that happens, PWC will be prime for “investors” buying on the cheap and renting to as many people as they need to in order to turn a tidy profit, creating the same mess you are trying - so far successfully, congratulations! - to correct. I’d like to think that the sub-prime disaster we now have on our hands would have put a stop to lending $400,000 to people who need 4 or 5 incomes plus several renters to afford to pay it back. It’s “investors” that I’d be worrying about.

    The average people of PWC have been extremely tolerant of a very bad situation for a very long time. Maybe too tolerant for too long.

  26. anon said on 20 Apr 2008 at 12:29 pm:
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    There were some large auctions at the DC convention center covering prinice williams homes recently. About six hundred were sold at least.

    Alot of the homes went for for about fifty percent from their high price.

    Sometimes with auctions, even though people win them, many may not follow through on the purchase. Most of the buyers looked like investors who plan to rent out the houses.


  27. park'd said on 20 Apr 2008 at 9:08 pm:
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    welcome to the section 8 housing capital of the dc area. Looks like we are going to have yet another fight on our hands. Saw this one coming a mile away.

  28. Wine Please said on 24 Apr 2008 at 5:05 pm:
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    Tried to look up my neighbor’s house that they have on the market…I was curious what they were asking for it and their house was no where to be found on their realtor’s site. Such a shame since they have had that sign in their lawn for well over a month. And they have been trying to sell the home on-and-off for nearly 3 years…they just keep getting these random Hispanic realtors and nothing happens. I spoke with our other neighbors (some of whom are SAHMs) and we’ve only seen 2 people come see the home. They’ve never had an Open House and I only found it listed online once. I wonder if they realize that their home is not being marketed? Too bad they don’t ever let me talk to them so I could let them know it seems they’re being hornswaggled. I can understand their need for someone to speak Spanish…the paperwork for buying/selling a home are difficult to understand in your native language, but I’m not sure why they don’t try a Hispanic agent with a reputable realty company like Long & Foster, ReMax, Century21, ERA, etc.

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