January 2021 Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Real Estate Market Report
January 12, 2021
What a wild year for home sales in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County! After several years of sitting at or just above 1,300 home sales per year, the real estate market took off like a rocket ship in 2020 and almost reached 1,500 home sales for the year! This overall 12.76% annual increase in home sales was accompanied by a 9.94% (ok, let’s just call it 10%) increase in the median sales price during 2020. The median sales price has now increased from just under $200K to just under $250K in only three years! Homes are also selling quickly, with a median days on market of just 9 days, which is 50% faster than a year ago.
The green charts above shows trends in detached home sales -- as compared to the orange charts which show attached home sales, comprised of duplexes, townhouses and condominiums. In 2020, we saw a 9% increase in the pace of sales of detached homes, accompanied by a 12% increase in the median sales price of those detached homes up to $269,000. The increase in the pace of attached homes was much more significant, as there were 22% more attached home sales in 2020 than in 2019, and the median sales price increased 10% to $193,000.
More than twice as many homes sell each hear in Rockingham County as compared to the City of Harrisonburg. Over the past year we have seen a small increase in City home sales -- with 3% more sales -- as well as an 11% increase in the median sales price of those homes. Meanwhile, in the County, there was a much larger, 17% increase in home sales in 2020, accompanied by only a slightly smaller 9% increase in the median sales price in the County. The median sales price in the County is a good bit higher ($254,000) than the City ($219,000) though likely because more townhouses (lower prices than detached homes) are in the City than the County.
What a wild, atypical, unexpected year it was in 2020! The highest number of monthly home sales usually take place in May and June -- but this year, home sales in September, October, November and December (!?!) were all higher than both May and June! It seems there was a good bit of shifting around of home sales this year due to COVID -- with spring/summer home sales shifting to the fall/winter season. It is still surprising, though, that home sales stayed as high as they did throughout the last few months of the year. Things usually slow down considerably in November and December, but not in 2020.
This colorful graph offers another way to look at the overall sales trends for the past few years in the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County housing market. As shown above, our local housing market experienced has seen steady growth between 2017 and 2019 - but then - wow - what happened in 2020!? After seeing an average of 1,301 home sales per year between 2016 and 2019, we saw a sudden spike upwards in 2020 to almost 1,500 home sales in 2020. It’s hard to completely explain why we saw such a larger increase in home sales, and it is not yet certain whether we will see quite so many in 2021.
This graph shows a rolling 12 month trend line of the number of homes sold in the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County area, as well as the median price of the homes that sold during these time frames. Each data point shows one year’s worth of home sales, which eliminates the volatility of evaluating sales figures on a monthly basis. The annual pace of home sales was trending slowly upwards through early 2020 and then dropped off suddenly due to COVID. Just a few months later, it started rising quite rapidly to almost 1,500 home sales per year. The median sales price has been consistently trending upwards to its current level of $244,900.
This graph provides an overall indicator of the state of our housing market, showing both the number of homes being sold each year since 2005 (yellow bars) as well as changes in the median sales price during the same time period (blue line). Over the past 10 years we have seen relatively steady increases in the number of homes sold each year in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County - up to 1,493 last year. Last year’s increase (+13%) was quite a bit larger than most previous increases. The median sales price has also been consistently increasing for nine years now, up to an all time high last year of $244,900.
The single family home market in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County has improved rather steadily over the past 10 years with increases almost every year in the number of homes sold. After having peaked in 2016 with 978 home sales, we finally broke through 1,000 sales per year with 1,041 home sales in 2020. The median sales price has now been rising for six years straight, from $190,000 back in 2014 to a new (all time) high of $269,000 in 2020. The median sales price of detached homes rose 12% in 2020, the first double digit price increase we have seen in at least 15 years.
The pace of sales of attached homes (duplexes, townhouses and condos) rose steadily between 2011 and 2017 and then plateaued for a few years right around 370 home sales per year. But then, 2020. The sales of attached homes jumped significantly in 2020, showing a 22% year over year increase, with 452 home sales. This takes us all the way back to the level of sales seen in 2007 -- though not to the much higher levels seen in 2005 and 2006. The median sales price of attached homes has been rising (for the most part) for eight years now and has hit a new (all time) high of $193,000, up from less than $150K only four years ago.
Most housing market analysts consider six months of inventory (active listings) to be an indicator of a balanced market (between buyers and sellers). The “BUYERS” trend line above is illustrating how many buyers are buying in a six month period. The “SELLERS” trend line above is illustrating how many sellers are in the market (active listings) at any given time. Over the past several years we have seen a steady increase in buyers and a declining number of sellers. In June 2016, these two trajectories crossed, and there are now many (many!) more buyers buying in a six month period than there are homes for sale at any given time.
In addition to monitoring home values by overall median sales prices in our market, it can be insightful to examine the median price per square foot of homes that are selling. The graph above shows the median price per square foot of all single family homes sold over the past 15 years. The value trend captured by this graph is quite similar to the trend shown in the single family home median sales price during the same time, which validates that assumed set of changes in home values. Over the past several years (2015 through 2020) we have seen increases in the median sales price as well as the median price per square foot of single family homes.
Price per square foot of single family homes certainly varies for many reasons, including the age, location, lot size and structural characteristics of each home sold. However, there are some similarities in homes of similar sizes. Looking at 2020 figures, this graph illustrates that the median price per square foot of larger homes (2500+ SF) was a good bit lower ($121/SF) than that of homes with less than 1500 SF ($161/SF) during 2020. These values cannot be used as an absolute standard against which the value of any home can be measured, but they can provide some helpful guidance when trying to determine the value of a home.
This graph shows the average list price to sales price ratio (red line) over the past 15 years as compared to the overall pace of home sales. At the peak of the housing boom (2004-2006) sellers were able to obtain a median of 99% of their asking price. Then, when the pace of home sales slowed (through 2010) this metric dropped to 96%, where it stayed for three years. Sellers started selling for slightly more in 2013-2015 when they could obtain 97% of their list price. This increased to 98% in 2016 (remained there in 2017), and has been holding at 99% since 2018, but has now popped up to a median of 100% in 2020.
New home builders have been building more homes over the past four years (70 - 82 per year) than seen during the preceding six years. These figures, of course, only represent new homes being marketed through the MLS. Plenty of additional new homes are built by local home builders on lots already owned by the person who will live in the home - and thus they do not show up in the new home sales metrics above. When looking just at these new home sales, we see a steady increase in the price per square foot of homes being built and sold over the past ten years, with the largest increase in that value taking place in 2020.
For each of the past six months, we have seen far more buyers (and sellers) signing contracts to buy (and sell) homes in 2020 as compared to the same month in 2019. While contract activity usually slows down quite a bit in the fall and winter, we didn’t see as much of a slow down in 2020. Looking ahead, it seems reasonable to think that we will continue to see a high number of closed sales in January and February, due to the high number of signed contracts in November and December. Typically, there are quite a few more contracts in January than in December - but given how strong December was, it is not yet clear if we will see a similar bump this January.
Over the past several years, inventory levels have dipped lower and lower and lower. This has not, though, been accompanied by a decline in the pace of home sales. So -- if just as many (or more) buyers are buying, how are they doing it if inventory levels are so low? They’re doing it with speed. The pace of home sales can increase, with inventory levels declining if the median “days on market” is also declining, which is definitely the case in our local market. So, plenty (maybe, maybe not) homes are being listed for sale, but they are then going under contract quickly, which keeps inventory levels low but the pace of home sales high.
This graph examines the differences in inventory levels over time when examining only single family homes as compared to attached dwellings (townhouses, duplexes, condos). The number of detached homes for sale has decreased by 47% over the past year, while the number of attached homes (townhouses, duplexes and condos) for sale has actually increased 42% over the past year, though the inventory levels of attached homes started (and ended) much lower! We usually see an increase in inventory levels in the spring, so hopefully we will see more options for buyers as we pass through the next few months.
Inventory levels have fallen 41% in Rockingham County over the past year while City inventory levels actually rose by 3% during the same timeframe. Of note -- there are more than twice as many home sales and homes for sale in the County as compared to the City. Low inventory levels are much more of an issue in the City right now if we look at both sellers (supply) and buyers (demand). This is likely leading to the faster increases in median sales praice in the City, and the lower median days on market in the City as compared to the same metrics in the County.
Declining inventory levels are contributing to an overall decline in the time it takes to sell a home in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. The current median “Days on Market” is 9 days for homes that have sold in the past year. Remarkably, 69% of homes that have sold in the past year have gone under contract within 30 days of having hit the market. Combine that with those that went under contract during the second month on the market, and you’ll find that 79% of homes that sell go under contract within 60 days. The graph to the right, above, shows the length of time that each active listing has been on the market for sale.
The pace of home sales in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County varies significantly based on price range. The graph above shows the average number of home sales per month (given a 12-month average) as we have passed through the past two years. Home sales have been declining over the past several years in the “under $200K” category -- though likely because of limited inventory, and fewer properties existing in this range based on increasing home values. We have seen year-over-year increases in all three of the other price ranges ($200K-$300K, $300K-$400K, $400K+) over the past year.
Inventory levels shift up and down seasonally, so this graph (now) looks at changes in average inventory over a 12 month period. We are seeing different trends in inventory levels by price range with the most notable change being the 48% decline in inventory levels under $200K. We are seeing a decrease in average inventory levels in every price range, though the smallest change has been in the over $400K price range where it has only been a 9% decline. Some of these changes in inventory levels are due to changes in market value (increases) over the past few years, but that cannot account for all of the changes in inventory levels.
With so many home sales (lots of buyers) and so few homes on the market (not so many sellers), there are low levels of supply in some price ranges in our local real estate market. The graph above illustrates that while it would take between five and six months to sell all of the homes currently for sale over $400K if the same number of buyers bought each month as have been buying (on average) over the past 12 months and if no new listings came on the market -- but it would take less than one month (!!) to go through the under $200K inventory. Many consider a six month supply to be a balance between buyers and sellers.
For six of the past seven years we have seen right around 80 sales per year of lots of less than an acre in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. In 2020, that annual pace of sales increased a good bit to 108 sales of building lots. Despite that increase in the number of lot sales, the median sales price for those lots declined slightly to $69,450. That decline is likely a result of which particular lots sold, not necessarily an indication that all lots are selling at lower prices now than they were a year ago. It will be interesting to see if we can see another 100+ lot sales in 2021.
The pace of sales of parcels of land larger than one acre in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County has increased over the past ten years to 117 land sales in 2020 -- marking the highest year of sales in over 15 years. The median price per acre has remained right around $15,000 per acre over the past four years. Of note -- some aspects of this “median price per acre” calculation are affected by which parcels actually sell in a given year. The increase in buyer demand over the past 10 years has not seemed to have created any significant upward lifting pressure on values to date.
The graph above is a comparison of two imprecise measures -- but the comparison can still be helpful. The blue bars show the number of home sales recorded in the HRAR MLS -- this does not include private sales that did not involve a Realtor, nor new home sales directly from a builder. The red bars show the number of recorded Trustee Deeds. Some foreclosed properties then show up again as REO properties. The foreclosure rate in our local market area has been trending downward over the past nine years and is now at the lowest level seen anytime in the past 15 years! The temporary moratorium on foreclosures likely kept that figure low in 2020.
As shown in the top graph above, for most of the past three years, home buyers have seen tremendously low interest rates -- almost always under 4.5%. Over the past two years those interest rates have been steadily declining to the current historically low rate of 2.67%. Never have we seen rates this low. The second graph above illustrates trends in the local unemployment rate -- which has trended downward over the past several years but which skyrocketed up to as high as 10.2% due to COVID-19 but has slowly dropped since then. A (usually) low local unemployment rate and low mortgage interest rates help our local housing market remain stable.