Alexandria, Va.-based Delta Associates is widely regarded as the real estate authority in the Washington area. So when a new report of theirs comes out, expect it to get a lot of coverage from the Washington Post and other local media organizations.
That was the case this week when a Delta report (cited in The Washington Post) showed that the D.C. market, once with an oversupply of condos, now has a disturbingly low inventory. A buying frenzy fueled by a warm winter and low interest left 94 finished condo units in the Central D.C. market, according to Delta. A couple hundred units remain under construction. The Washington metro area saw 457 condo sales in the first quarter of 2012, an 8.5 percent increase over last year.
But despite the demand, buyers, even in the seemingly recession-proof nation’s capital, still have problems getting loans for condos. But even with these hurdles, Delta predicts that condo prices could rise.
Take that information, plus what’s going on in the rental market and an opportunity begins to emerge: Over the past few years, landlords have enjoyed a nice ride in the nation’s capital. Right now, vacancies in the area are at 3.8 percent (though with the national rate below 5 percent, according to Reis, the rest of the nation is catching up).
But Delta says developers broke ground on a whopping 14,827 units (the highest number it ever recorded) in the D.C. area in 2011. Rent increases already are moderating in the national’s capital. And once these units hit, rates could start falling backward. But with the tightening condo market, you have to wonder if some of them may end up as condos . In the District, with strict conversion laws, that could be tough. But in the suburbs, which saw a lot of product turn to for-sale in the mid 2000’s, it’s certainly possible. Could D.C. be at an inflection point where condos make sense again? And, if so, how soon will other cities follow?