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Morning Poll: Detached homes vs. townhomes and duplexes

Real estate sign in the Arlington Heights neighborhood (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

This Wall Street Journal article telling the story of the steep price of single-family homes in Arlington has attracted lots of local attention this week.

The crux of the story: members of the Millennial generation, many of whom first came to the area as apartment-dwelling singles, are increasingly starting families and looking to trade up to single-family homes, but a lack of supply has made it difficult for them to find something affordable in Arlington.

Still, Arlington remains an attractive place to live, particularly for the mix of suburban-style living and urban-style amenities.

From WSJ:

But many of those millennials are well paid and want larger homes than they would get in those high-rises, said David Howell, executive vice president and chief information officer with McEnearney Associates in Washington. Others are starting families or moving to Arlington for its good schools, said Mr. Howell, or for new jobs with federal agencies and Arlington-based companies such as Boeing Co. or Nestlé SA’s U.S. headquarters. There is little land for building new single-family housing, he noted. The pandemic worsened the shortage, according to Ryan McLaughlin, chief executive officer of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. Older homeowners didn’t downsize, he said, and others renovated houses they now hesitate to leave. Now, he added, owners also balk at trading low mortgage rates for new, higher ones.

“Single-family homes are the hottest ticket in town, for sure,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “The extraordinary price growth has left many homeowners with very expensive homes while leaving first-time home buyers wondering how they will afford to buy one.”

Despite the slowdown in the overall market, the median price for a single-family detached home in Arlington County rose by 16.5% between July 2021 and July 2022, according to Bright MLS. The average number of days homes stay on the market rose from July 2021, but only by two days to 18 days, the service reported. At the end of July 2022, there were 147 detached homes on the market in Arlington, 21 more than in July 2021, according to Bright MLS.

Of course, not everyone needs a single-family detached home. Some would-be homeowners would be happy (or happier) with a single-family attached home, like a townhouse or a duplex.

But those are in shorter supply. The number of townhouses currently on the market is less than half the number of single-family detached homes, according to Redfin data. On the other hand, townhouses and duplexes are, on average, considerably less expensive than single-family detached homes, which have a current average sale price of just over $1.2 million, according to Redfin.

Arlington’s missing middle housing initiative may end up changing zoning to allow for more townhouses, duplexes and other smaller-scale multi-family housing types, but for now the reality is that there’s more to choose from if you were interested in detached homes on one end of the spectrum or condos in larger complexes on the other.

Given the WSJ story about the popularity of single-family detached homes, and the on-going missing middle debate, we were interested in finding out the housing preferences of readers if you take price out of the equation.

If all other things were equal, including price, what would be your preferred home type (detached or attached) and location type (a more leafy, suburban setting, or a more urban setting with amenities like restaurants and transit nearby) within Arlington?

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