Northern Shenandoah real estate market sees some positive trends

By Katie Demeria

The Northern Shenandoah Valley experienced generally positive trends in the real estate market throughout July, according to a recent report.

The Long & Foster Market Minute detailed the increase of the median sale price when compared to last year. Frederick County saw an increase of 28 percent, while Warren County’s went up by 9 percent.

But Shenandoah County’s median sale price decreased by 20 percent.

Jeff Webber, broker and owner of Long & Foster Webber in Winchester, said the city’s sale price increase of only 1 percent is probably even higher than it seems.

“I can tell you it feels a lot higher than that,” he said. “Winchester is such a small market. We only have 25 to 30 sales [per month], while Frederick County has around 90. A house that goes low can really skew the numbers.”

According to Webber, the increased sale prices are likely a result of commuters returning to Frederick and Warren counties.

Gas prices are leveling out, he said, and many are now willing to pay more to live in the area while commuting to Washington, D.C., or Northern Virginia.

Shenandoah County, he said, may not be as popular a destination for commuters, so the area is not enjoying the higher prices commuters may spend.

According to the report, houses were listed on the market in Frederick County for an average of 54 days, 58 days in Warren County, and a much larger 110 days in Shenandoah County, suggesting that buyers are more eager to purchase homes in the latter two counties.

“People have to have a reason to be there,” Webber said.

Another reason for the difference in median sale prices for July, though, may be a return to more realistic pricing, Webber suggested.

On average, homes in Frederick County sold for 97.5 percent of their listed price. Warren County homes sold for 98 percent, and Shenandoah County for 94.1 percent.

“People are putting houses on the market more realistically, and buyers are saying, yeah, it’s worth it,” Webber said. “We have some sellers that have had to make hard decisions, saying they want to sell, but it’s not 2005 anymore.”

The trend in Shenandoah County may suggest a move toward reducing inventory in the area and moving toward a more stable real estate market — the number of units sold increased by 29 percent when compared to last year.

Stability on the market, Webber pointed out, is very important.

“2005 and 2006 were the best years for the real estate business in Winchester, there’s no denying it,” he said. “But, quite honestly, 2005 and 2006 weren’t healthy, it was unsustainable.”

After looking at the current pace, Webber said, this year’s market seems to match that of 2004, “which was a really good pace.”

“Let’s just find a nice, happy medium area, and see what’s going on when we get there,” Webber said of the changing market.

Right now is a great time to buy a new home, as well, according to Webber.

“I really, truly believe that this is a great opportunity, it really is,” he said. “With interest rates as low as they are, I don’t see a better opportunity in the future.”

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com