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Loudoun’s Market Heats Up; Sterling Emerges As New Real Estate Hot Spot

© Leesburg Today - 09/30/2015

The parts of the county that are seeing homes sell the fastest may surprise you. Sterling, Aldie, Broadlands and Brambleton have been the most sought-after areas for buyers in the past couple of months, according to recent RealEstate Business Intelligence reports.

When Tim Nuhfer and Natasha Schuh-Nuhfer began their hunt for their first home, they jotted down a list of priorities.

The husband and wife wanted at least 2,000 square feet of space, two to three bedrooms and a garage with space for their kayaks and other outdoor gear, and they didn't want to pay much more than $450,000.

Their search criteria led them to a neighborhood that's considered one of Loudoun's real estate hot spots, where homes are moving quicker than anywhere else in the county. They found their new abode, a four-bedroom, 2,100-square-foot house with a two-car garage, on the far east end of Sterling.

""To afford a house like that in Ashburn, we'd have to save up for another 10 years, so instead we took a gamble,"" Schuh-Nuhfer said. ""We were pleasantly surprised with what we found in Sterling. It's definitely an area where the houses don't seem to be staying on the market long.""

The parts of the county that are seeing homes sell the fastest may surprise you. Sterling, Aldie, Broadlands and Brambleton have been the most sought-after areas for buyers in the past couple of months, according to recent RealEstate Business Intelligence's report commissioned by Dulles Area Association of REALTORS.

The newer neighborhoods in Aldie saw the biggest uptick in activity in the past year, with a median 29 days on the market compared with 42 in August 2014. That rise is likely a result of the median sales price in the area taking a hit-down 23 percent from $545,124 last August to $420,721 this August.

DAAR's August report showed that houses were moving quickest in Sterling's 20164 ZIP code, which logged the county's lowest median sales prices at $352,500. Homes in that area, east of Rt. 28 and south of Rt. 7, were on the market an average of 26 days in August. In July, that rate was 18 days.

Schuh-Nuhfer said that, for her and her husband, the affordability of buying a house in that area was a plus, but an easier commute to work is what has both of them most excited to move in later this month. For the past two years, Schuh-Nuhfer has commuted to Tysons Corner and Nuhfer has driven to Manassas. ""We're tired of traffic,"" the 35-year-old Schuh-Nuhfer said. ""We're done with Waxpool Road.""

Plus, when Loudoun's Silver Line stations open in 2020, she'll have a short drive to Metrorail.

""With the Silver Line coming, now is the time to buy here,"" she said. ""People are on to it now, and the prices are really going to go up.""

Overall, Loudoun's market has had a promising year. August marked the eighth month in a row that saw year-over-year gains in sales. While the county's median sales price is unchanged from a year ago, the year's home sales tally of 4,472 as of August is up 16.1 percent over the same period last year.

And not only are more homes selling, but also they're selling faster. Twenty-six percent of the homes sold were on the market 10 or fewer days, an increase from 21.4 percent last August.

""If a house sells in 10 days or less, you know it's priced right and is in great condition,"" Pamela Jones of Long & Foster Realtors said.

Leesburg's 20176 ZIP code-where median sales prices are above the county average at $445,000-took the biggest dive in activity. In August, the median house was on the market for 38 days.

That slowdown is likely driven by price.

Joe and Megan Scanlan experienced a bit of sticker shock when they first started looking for a home in downtown Leesburg. The couple expected to save a little money when they sold their townhouse in Ashburn and moved west.

""But once we knew we wanted to be in the downtown district, we discovered it's a hard market,"" Joe Scanlan said. ""We saw a lot of older homes, but they were expensive and not renovated and not that big.""

They finally decided to sell their townhouse and move in with Megan Scanlan's mother to save a few months worth of mortgage payments and be poised to buy immediately when they came upon the perfect home. They found exactly what they were looking for at Crescent Place, a mixed-use development under construction along Harrison Street.

""It seems like it's going to be a really cool place to live, and it's walking distance to downtown,"" Joe Scanlan said. They will move in January, but Scanlan said, ""Already, it feels like home.""

If there's any part of the market real estate agents might call a ""cold spot"" in Loudoun, it's the houses priced at seven figures.

There are 200 homes for sale at $1 million or more, and just 16 are under contract, according to Jones at Long & Foster. So far this year, 67 at that price range have sold-just 1.5 percent of the county's overall home sales.

""So we currently have a 21-month supply of homes over $1,000,000,"" Jones said in an email. ""Yikes!""

The pricier homes depreciated the most during the real estate bust and have taken longer to rebound, she said, while the lower-priced, first-time homes are appreciating faster and selling faster.

While those trying to sell their $1 million properties might have a hard time believing it, Loudoun's housing market is considered balanced, according to the Dulles Area Association of Realtors.

Carol Kearney, of Momentum Realty LLC, described the state of real estate in the county as ""just right.""

""Everything is moving along at a nice rate. It's a great market for buyers and sellers,"" she said. ""I don't see prices skyrocketing, but I do see things appreciating as they should.""

And, as Virginia One Development partner Wayland Coker put it, Loudoun as a whole is a sought-after real estate market.

The county tallied an average of 33 median days on the market in August-14 fewer days than the rest of Northern Virginia jurisdictions combined and 44 fewer days than the statewide average, Northern Virginia Association of Realtors' stats show.

""This county has so much to offer,"" Coker said, ""and more and more people are discovering that.""

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