A question on most people’s mind is, “Will home prices in Loudoun continue to fall?” That’s a great question and one which nobody can answer with complete certainty. But one thing to look at that will help you make an educated guess is whether Loudoun home prices are where they should be. Figuring that out includes taking things into consideration such as average income for the area, cost of living, etc.
There are several studies and research papers out there that look at home price valuations per region and/or city. One of them is done by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which recently published “House Prices in America: 4th Quarter 2008 Update” (pdf).
Here’s a map of the U.S. showing how home prices compare to where they should be (taken from the WSJ report):
Northern Virginia, including Loudoun County, is “Fairly Valued” meaning that it’s neither over nor undervalued (aka prices are where they should be).
Now, let’s take a closer look at current and past home price valuations for our area. Here’s an excerpt from the report showing the stats for the Washington, DC metro area:
It’s broken down into 6 columns with two data points in each column. From left to right, the columns represent 2004Q4, 2005Q4, 2006Q4, 2007Q4, 2008Q3, 2008Q4. The two data points in each column represent the average price (in thousands) and the percent above or below where house prices should be. The Washington, DC metro area can be found about halfway down the very left hand side - ”Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV”. If you look all the way to the right, you’ll see that home prices are 2.2 percent below where they should be.
On a side note, check out how overvalued prices were during the boom market - 25 percent in 2004Q4, 43 percent in 2005Q4 and 30 percent in 2006Q4 (though our local market started its downward spiral in Q3 of 2006). If you’re wondering how people could afford to buy a home when they were so overvalued just look to lenders/banks and their loose lending guidelines and ”creative” financing options.
So are prices really where they should be?
I would have said we’re about where we should be even before I saw this report – we’re seeing prices at 2003, if not earlier pre-boom-market levels.
Could we see prices drop more? If interest rates go up or there’s an immediate flood of foreclosures or the economy collapses, yes. But Loudoun County has already seen values drop 25, 35 even 50+ percent from the peak of the boom market (2006) so, barring anything on a macro-level, I think the worse is over.