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Ask Eli: Deep Dive Into Arlington’s Townhouse Market

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I need more living space and single-family homes are out of my budget, so I’ve been searching for townhouses in Arlington, but finding that the options are limited. Can you provide some guidance on what the townhouse market in Arlington looks like?

Answer: I spend a lot of time digging into the condo and single-family home markets but not much time on the townhouse/duplex market. Why? Because townhouses and duplexes make up such a small part of our housing inventory. According to a Missing Middle study, townhouses and duplexes make up just 5.9% of Arlington’s housing inventory (3.7% are townhouses).

Fortunately (for some), we’ve recently had an unusual surge in new townhouse developments hit the market including:

  • Arlington Heights: 27 townhouses developed by NV Homes, walking distance to the East Falls Church Metro, ranging in price from about $1.1M-$1.4M
  • Trenton Square: 19 townhouses developed by Madison Homes, near the intersection of Rt 50 (north side) and Glebe and a short distance to Ballston, starting at around $1M
  • Morrison Hill: 17 townhouses developed by Beazer Homes, near the intersection of Columbia Pike and George Mason (across from the new Harris Teeter), ranging in price from about $800k-$900k+
  • Towns of 24th: 8 townhouses built by Evergreene Homes, in the Green Valley neighborhood situated between Shirlington and Columbia Pike, starting in the mid-$800s
  • Park Nelson: 3 townhouses developed by District Line Development, in the Green Valley neighborhood situated between Shirlington and Columbia Pike, ranging from $900k to $935k
  • Townes at South Glebe: 16 townhouses across two sites developed by Christopher Companies, off of South Glebe between Columbia Pike and Shirlington, with prices starting in the upper $800s

Explanation of Data

For the data below, I looked at sales of townhouse and duplex properties over the past five years (except the last chart). I decided to separate these properties into ownership type: Condominium and Fee Simple.

Condominium ownership is generally used in multi-family buildings (apartment-style) but was popular in many of South Arlington’s townhouse communities in the mid-1900s. In condominium ownership, the HOA is generally responsible for what’s outside the walls of the home (roof, fencing, some plumbing, etc.), and HOA fees are therefore (significantly) higher.

Fee Simple ownership means you own the entire structure and the land your home sits on. The HOA fees are usually much lower because there’s less common ownership.

Over the past five years, we’ve had a nearly 50/50 split between condo and fee simple townhouse/duplex sales.

5-Year Townhouse Market Performance

Unsurprisingly, the townhouse/duplex market has followed the same general trends as the rest of the housing market, with a strong 2018, followed by a white hot 2019 and 2020, where the average townhouse/duplex sold for more than the asking price and 60% or more of homes listed sold within the first week.

Here are a few highlights from the data below:

  • There are a few ways of looking at appreciation here, but overall, the data suggests the townhouse/duplex market has appreciated ~20% in the past five years, with most of that coming in the last two years.
  • The apparent drop in market value, by average sold price, of Fee Simple in 2019 is a misrepresentation of the market ,and due to the difference in the distribution of sales (more inexpensive/fewer expensive listings), the $/sqft tells a more accurate story for 2018-2019 Fee Simple pricing.
  • The ~10% appreciation of the Condominium townhouse/duplex market (smaller, older and less expensive than the Fee Simple market) in 2020 is likely due to buyer demand shifting away from similarly priced apartment-style condos in buildings towards private entry townhouse/duplex living with easier access to outdoor space (COVID related).
  • Although quite different in size, price, age and HOA fees, the Condominium and Fee Simple styles of townhouse/duplex ownership generally move in close parallel.

What To Expect From Townhouse/Duplex Inventory

Below is a chart showing what your average Condominium and Fee Simple townhouse/duplex has offered buyers over the past five years of sales. While Fee Simple homes are roughly 43% larger, with an extra bedroom/bathroom and about 25 years newer (likely to have a more open floor plan, larger bathrooms and larger closets) the average Fee Simple home in 2020 was about $290,000 more expensive.

Sales Since 2019, by Decade Built

I also thought it would be interesting to compare what inventory looks like based on the decade it was built. The following table details what you can expect to find in townhouse/duplex inventory by decade built, based on sales since 2019.

Below are a few highlights from the data:

  • There are three “generations” of townhouse/duplex inventory: 1930s-1950s, 1960s-1980s and 1990s-current. In each “generation,” the size of homes being built increased significantly.
  • The oldest, least expensive homes sell the fastest, with an incredible 71% of 1930s townhouses/duplexes selling within one week on market. On the flip side, the newest, most expensive inventory can take a little longer to sell, with less than 50% of these homes selling within one week. However, even at 40% and 47%, that is still a fast pace for any market.
  • Of the 1,012 townhouse/duplex homes sold since 2019, 279 (27.6%) had an attached garage. On average, a townhouse/duplex with a garage sold for just over $967,000 and 77% of these homes were built in the 1990s-2010s. 75% of homes with a garage had a two-car garage, representing only about 20% of total townhouse/duplex sales and requiring an average purchase price just over $1M.

For those of you exploring the purchase or sale of a townhouse/duplex in Arlington, I hope this information was helpful! If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to set-up an in-person meeting to discuss local Real Estate, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at 703-539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. 703-390-9460.

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