Home sales across Virginia remained solid if not spectacular in August, but the market seems to be returning to more seasonal ebbs and flows after nearly 18 months in which it was first knocked around by COVID, then got up off the floor and staged a robust comeback.

Total sales statewide in August stood at 14,443, up 5.1 percent from the 13,745 transactions recorded in August 2020, according to figures reported Sept. 21 by the Virginia Realtors trade group.

The increase is even more impressive given that, by August 2020, the Virginia real-estate market was making a comeback from the initial effects of COVID, which in some cases had kept both buyers and sellers on the sidelines for months and created a pent-up sense of demand that was unleashed that summer.

But the year-over-year increase in August sales is well below the 19.2-percent boost year-to-date, suggesting that the market is returning to some semblance of normal ebb-and-flow – more sales from late winter through mid-summer, then a cooling for the second half of the year.

“The total number of sales in Virginia in August was 4.2-percent lower than July, which is typical of seasonal market trends,” said Lisa Sturtevant, chief economist for Virginia Realtors.

Sturtevant said part of the slowing sales pace was attributable to the strong market of last summer, when Virginia residents had started hopping back into the home-buying-and-selling fray. But, she added, it “could also reflect a broader cooldown in some local areas,” pointing to regions like the Northern Neck and parts of Southwest Virginia that had the sharpest July-to-August decline.

But whispers of the housing market’s demise seem premature at best. The 14,443 transactions of August 2021 compare favorably not only to the 13,754 of 2020, but even better when compared to pre-COVID years 2019 (12,428), 2018 (12,052) and 2017 (11,886).

In Northern Virginia, sales for August 2021 totaled 4,082, up 3.2 percent from a year before. (Virginia Realtors defines “Northern Virginia” more broadly than some other measures, as it counts sales are far south as Fredericksburg and slightly beyond.)

For the month, the biggest year-over-year boost came in Hampton Roads, which saw sales increase 3.2 percent to 5,082. Central Virginia, which includes the Richmond metropolitan area and is the third most populous of the eight geographical regions of the commonwealth, was up 8.8 percent to 3,091.

And prices kept on keeping on, with the median sales price of all properties going to closing in Virginia last month standing at $355,000, up $25,000 (7.6 percent) from a year before. As a result, total sales volume for the month stood at $6.2 billion, up 12.6 percent from a year before. In Northern Virginia, the median sales price of $530,000 was up 6 percent, although it was down slightly from the year-to-date median of $535,000 (another indicator that the market is cooling).

In other parts of the commonwealth, median prices for August 2021 ranged from $165,000 (in both Southwest and Southside Virginia) to $330,000 (Central Virginia). Year-over-year increases ranged from 0.8 percent in Central Virginia to 17.9 percent in Southside Virginia.

“The average sold-to-list-price ratio in August was 101 percent,” Sturtevant said. “In some cases, of course, homes sold for below asking price, and in other cases, the final sales price was much higher than the final list price.”

Sales prices, as always, are a factor of location, location, location, Sturtevant said.

“Several local markets in Central Virginia and Northern Virginia experienced a decline in median prices, including Arlington County, which had its sharpest price decline [7.8 percent] in more than three years,” she said. “The strongest median-price growth continues to occur in the eastern and southern portions of the state.”

At the end of the month, there were 20,363 active listings statewide, down 10.6 percent from a year ago and less than half the number of homes on the market in three summers ago. The degree of the decline, however, is narrowing, with the year-over-year dropoff in August the smallest recorded in two years.

Where is the market headed? As with temperatures, a cooling is in the forecast, although as with temperatures, that seems normal seasonality rather than the result of outside forces.

There were a total of 12,251 pending but not yet consummated sales statewide in August, a dropoff of 5.3 percent from a year before and off slightly from July. Pending sales usually translate into completed transactions within a month or so of posting.

“This drop is somewhat expected, because the market was surging last summer,” Sturtevant said, but “could also signal a broader cooldown” in parts of the commonwealth.

For the first eight months of the year, total sales statewide stood at 103,057, up from 86,471 a year before. Sales volume for the period was $44.6 billion, up a whipping 35 percent from $33.1 billion.

Figures represent most, but not all, transactions during the period. All August 2021 figures are preliminary and are subject to revision.

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