Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia are the most competitive housing markets in the U.S., according to a new report from Redfin. Both cities neighbor Crystal City, home of Amazon's upcoming second headquarters (HQ2). Long Island City, New York, where activists and local politicos stymied an attempt by the city to lure an Amazon HQ2 there, is nowhere on the list.

Adobe Stock/MISHELA
Adobe Stock/MISHELA

The report ranked cities by Redfin Compete Score, which rates how tough it is for buyers to win a home using Redfin data on the number of competing offers and waived contingencies, as well as multiple listing service (MLS) data on how quickly homes are going under contract and for how much above list price. Both with a Compete Score of 96, Alexandria and Arlington buyers face the most intense competition anywhere in the country.

In the HQ2-adjacent cities, homes are going under contract far faster than the national rate or even the D.C. metro as a whole. Homes sold in July went off the market in a median 11 days in Arlington and 14 days in Alexandria, about a week less than last July in both, and far lower than the 27-day median for the D.C. metro and 38 days nationally. More than half (57%) of all homes for sale in both Arlington and Alexandria went off the market in two weeks or less. That was true of just 40% of homes in the D.C. metro and just 29% of homes nationwide.

"The Amazon HQ2 effect has become a permanent factor in the Arlington and Alexandria housing markets," said local Redfin listing agent Marcia Burgos-Stone. "Some sellers are still opting to hold on to their homes and wait until it becomes a more concrete reality in the hopes that they'll get more money. This has led to a shortage of homes for sale, which puts pressure on buyers who are concerned that they'll be left behind if they can't find a home before things get too heated up."

In both Arlington and Alexandria, the number of homes for sale fell by about 50% year over year in July. Without enough supply to meet demand, more homes are selling above list price. Nearly half (46%) of Arlington homes sold in July went for more than list price, versus just 27% a year ago. In Alexandria, 36% sold for more than list, up from 24% a year ago. That can be compared to 32% in the D.C. metro and 24% nationwide. Median home sale prices in Arlington and Alexandria are more volatile, especially with a declining volume of sales due to the increased competition, and are currently flat or down from a year ago.

Arlington, VA
Alexandria, VA
Washington, D.C. metro
Median sale price
Median sale price, YoY change
Home sales, YoY change
Inventory, YoY change
Median days on market
11 days
14 days
27 days
38 days
Median days on market, YoY change
-7 days
-6 days
+8 days
+2 days
Percent under contract within 2 weeks
Percent under contract within 2 weeks, YoY percentage point change from a year ago
+5.8 pts
+12.8 pts
-8.1 pts
-1.6 pts
Percent sold above asking
Percent sold above asking, YoY percentage point change
+19.2 pts
+12.1 pts
+2.9 pts
-3.2 pts
Share of homes with a price drop
Share of homes with a price drop, YoY percentage point change
-7.2 pts
-18.1 pts
-6.2 pts
+1.8 pts

"A market can become highly competitive when buyers agree that home values will increase steeply in the future," said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. "If you believe home values will go up hundreds of thousands of dollars in the next five years, you will race to bid five or ten thousand dollars above asking price today. So, even though it may take a decade for Amazon's HQ2 to grow the size of the Seattle headquarters, attracting high-earners and driving economic growth in the surrounding area, home buyers and home sellers are already operating under the assumption that there will be strong demand for homes going forward."

Most Competitive Cities for Homebuyers
Redfin Compete Score
Alexandria, VA
Arlington, VA
Grand Rapids, MI
Tacoma, WA
Oakland, CA

Compared to last summer when Redfin debuted the Redfin Compete Score, only Oakland and Tacoma have retained their positions in the top five most-competitive markets. Amazon is also likely a major factor in Tacoma, the fourth-most-competitive market. Buyers in nearby Seattle who have been priced out are looking to their neighbor to the south for more affordable options.

In addition to the HQ2 cities shooting to the top of the list, Grand Rapids is also one of the most competitive markets in the country, thanks to its affordability. The median home in Grand Rapids in July sold for just $215,800, well below the national median price of $318,100.