Warren administrator: Number of home starts back to normal

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — The Warren County housing market in 2016 continued its slow climb back from the down years of the recession.

The number of new home starts in Warren County increased by 29 from 2015 to 2016, sustaining a trend since an all-time low in 2010, when a total of 51 units were started.

New home starts last year numbered 145 compared to 116 in 2015, the sixth consecutive year of an increase. Of the new home starts, 14 were in the Town of Front Royal, down one from 2015. That illustrates a steady increase, as there 87 new home starts in 2014 and 82 in 2013.

Along with communities throughout the nation, Warren County's housing market suffered from 2008 to 2013. The county dipped to its lowest new home start figures in 2010 with 55.

The normal number of new home starts for a year in Warren County is between 125 and 175, County Administrator Doug Stanley said.

"We are getting closer to what I would say is the historic normal for Warren County," Stanley said. "It's been a long, slow climb out of the recession for the local housing industry."

The county would like to see yearly growth of 2 to 3 percent in home starts, according to Stanley. The county was closest to that target with 425 new home starts in 2004. There was about a 0.8-percent increase in 2016.

"The growth rate is well below our 2-3 percent maximum outlined in the Warren County Comprehensive Plan and slightly above the .61 percent average experienced since Jan. 1, 2006," Stanley said.

Growth is important to support a healthy economy, contractors and local businesses, Stanley said. A positive sign is that the county has attracted more residents over 65 since 2010.

This trend may be boosted, as the Board of Supervisors recently approved re-zoning at Blue Ridge Shadows. In revised proffers for the subdivision, there will 42 units age-restricted houses with a minimum of 1,600 square feet and smaller yards.

Many people in the over 65 demographic have previously moved to places such as Lake Frederick because Warren County did not have houses which fit their needs, Stanley said.

The average 2016 selling price in the county was about $232,000, a 7 percent increase from 2015, Team Waller Real Estate owner Beth Waller said. There were 658 homes sold last year compared to 625 in 2015.

As of January 2017, the median sale price of Warren County homes were about $221,400, a 6 percent increase from last year, according to a Long and Foster news release. This is compared to a 28 percent increase in Frederick County and an 8 percent decrease in Shenandoah County.

In January 2017, Warren County saw 58 new listings compared to 114 in Frederick County and 47 in Shenandoah County, the release said. Those houses stayed on the market an average of 73 days in Warren County, 81 days in Frederick County and 103 days in Shenandoah County.

As of Monday, 202 active homes were on the market in Warren County, Waller said. The average time houses stayed on the market last year was 86 days, versus 98 days in 2015.

There is a shortage of properties in Warren County for buyers to choose from, which causes prices to increase based on supply and demand, according to Waller.

For example, there are 23 homes with three-plus bedrooms and two-plus bathrooms listed in Warren County under for $200,000. There are 34 houses listed between $200,000 and $250,000 with the same criteria.

Waller is encouraging potential sellers to list homes sooner than later this year to beat the normal spring influx. This would take advantage of low inventory versus high demand.

She expects a ìfantasticî local and national real estate market in 2017, and is expecting good spring sales numbers.

A positive sign for the local real estate business is that there were 64 post-foreclosure listings closed last year, Waller said. This number has been steadily decreasing since 2010, when there were 248 post-foreclosure listings closed.

Another promising statistic is there were just 16 short sales in 2016, Waller said. A short sale is when sellerís lenders approve the sale because sellers owe more than housesí market worth.
The most short sales in Warren County occurred in 2012, when there were 62.

"We have definitely recovered, and though prices aren't back to the artificial values of the boom, they are appreciating at fantastic rates and many homeowners are finding themselves with a surprising amount of equity," Waller said.

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