Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Bubble, Bubble -- Then Trouble

Is the chill in once-red-hot Loudoun County, Va., a portent of what's ahead?

Psssssfffffft. That's the sound of the air finally leaking from the real estate bubble in Loudoun County, Va. Since 2000 it's been the nation's fastest-growing county, where eager homebuyers always seemed to outnumber happy sellers. Until now.

Bob Semmens, a 60-year-old retired pressman, has heard that sound. After he offered up his 3,000-square-foot colonial, with three acres and a swimming pool, in early July for $759,000, he sat back to wait for the frenzied offers. A year before, houses had remained on the market for just 20 days and were snapped up in bidding wars. But "very few people were even coming out to look," Semmens recalls. After four months, he was about to take the house off the market until next spring. But then he struck a deal -- for $620,000, an 18% price cut. Semmens rues his bad timing: "Just at the time I was getting the house on the market, everything really started to slow down."