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Yesterday's Residential Summit

Folks buying homes in our region are taking cues on what and where to purchase from how they select an ice cream flavor, according to Toll Brothers City Living's Stephen Alfandre (left) at our Residential State of the Market event yesterday at the Mayflower. Stephen (with Bozzuto's Tom Baum) says "it's almost like a chocolate and vanilla approach" with how DC-area buyers go about their search, since some still prefer the suburban lifestyle while many others opt to head downtown. Tom says environmental regulations are pushing development into urban infill areas, which in turn has created a hotly contested market for developers.

Pulte Homes division prez Lewis Burnbaum (with Lyons & Sucher's Mark Sucher) believes in more of a "swirl" approach, saying that neighborhoods should cater to multiple buyer segments. But while there's still strong demand for the big single-family home in the suburbs, living out there can be prohibitive for residents, since it can be too far away from employment centers, transportation hubs, and amenities.

Homebuilders are pouring as much as 20% to 30% of national capital allocations to the DC area, says Fraser Forbes CEO Rich Samit (with EYA's Aakash Thakkar). And building in urban areas has paid off for those lucky enough to secure development sites, as Rich says prices have eclipsed the peak of 2005-2006. Aakash says EYA's been able to lock down a few of those sites by taking on projects with difficult entitlement processes that other developers may shy away from.

The lack of huge available tracts—as well as smarter buyer habits—has steadied the market, according to Elm Street's David Flanagan, with McWilliams Ballard's Chris Ballard. And unless external factors hurt the DC economy, "we're in for several years of a reasonable place to do business," David says. Chris adds that financial apps and tools make buyers more sophisticated than ever.