Continuing to examine and hold a lively discussion of the Northern Virginia Real Estate market.
Please post your local house search updates, MLS finds, on-topic ideas, and links here.
Which area in the D.C metro is No.1 for single family residence, if cost is immaterial.My priorities are 1) good schools 2) low crime 3) cachet 4)proximity to D.C / restaurantsthanks.
Out of curiosity, do you think there are quite a few foreclosures looming in the Ashburn / Brambleton area? How much further will the median price drop in that area?I know this is speculation, just looking for opinions.
kalyan,Fairfax is reputed to have the best overall public school system. It's the home of probably the best magnet high school, Thomas Jefferson.Crime is not too much of a factor in any NOVA county. Prince William probably is the worst offender and that is mild.I don't know what you mean by cachet, so I won't even try. Proximity, well, that's pretty much self-explanitory, right? Arlington > Alexandria > Fairfax > Lodoun/Prince William > Stafford/Faquier.
Congress wants to socialize the losses and reward people for their mistakes. (nothing new in concept for Congress, just especially egregious in form) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080624/ap_on_go_co/congress_housing "The centerpiece of the package is a foreclosure rescue program in which the Federal Housing Administration would provide $300 billion in new, cheaper mortgages for distressed homeowners who otherwise would be considered too financially risky to qualify for government-insured, fixed-rate loans." Congress Switchboard is (202) 224-3121 if you feel like giving your opinion.
Kalyan, Your question makes no sense. First, people for whom cost is immaterial do not get suggestions of where to live from strangers on the internet. Second, if cost is no issue, then neither are schools-- live in Palisades and send your kids to Sidwell. Third--proxmity to where in DC? McLean is a lot closer to some areas of DC than Alexandria or even parts of Arlington. Fourth--cachet is in the eye of the beholder. Just see the recent article in the Economist discussing cultural differences between McLean and Bethesda. I live in McLean, but I can tell you that the level of "cachet" that this carries varies dramatically. In the end, I suspect you are interested in N. Arlington, McLean, Great Falls, Alexandria, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, or many areas in NW in no particular order. Best for you would depend on the exact commute and priorities.
i'd live out west near luray/front roayl if the commute wouldn't be a problem!
I'm with bas!
justin,I live in 20147 and follow Ashburn's market quite closely. Yes, I believe there will be many more foreclosures in the next year or two. Why? My short answer is:1) Overbuilt2) Countless purchases made in 04-073) Exotic mortgage optionsIt's hard to say how much further the median will drop because the high-end homes are sitting on the market while low-end homes are being discounted and moved. It's very bizarre. However, I think in general they will come down another 25%. Just a guess.
Kristina,Thank you for the reply. My wife and I almost pulled the trigger on a townhouse in Brambleton two years ago. We are quite relieved that we had cold feet, as the same town houses are going for a lot less than they were. We are in no hurry to buy a house. Currently planning on renting until 2010 to see how this all plays out before becoming first time home owners and losing the 60k we have saved up thus far.
justin,$60K? Good for you. I was going to mention that new lending standards will keep many would-be buyers out of the market, such as myself (great credit, good work history/income, but little down payment), and will put more downward pressure on home prices.Brambleton is nice, but it's getting hit hard by the falling home prices. Check out the MLS -- lots of short sales/foreclosures. It's also a traffic nightmare, if you're not familiar w/the area, so keep that in mind. Plan to spend $4 on the Greenway or to sit in traffic on Waxpool because whoever planned Ashburn didn't think transportation through.
I"m so glad that someone mentioned Ashburn. I have in-law-type-relatives who live there and every time I go, I feel a soul-lessness and wonder how people every find their way home b/c everything looks the same. Finally, we go on the weekends and it costs us like 4.50 and 40 minutes Each Way! Other than the Wegman's, what's the attraction?
"Amy saidevery time I go, I feel a soul-lessness and wonder how people every find their way home b/c everything looks the same."I couldnt agree more. Time was, I used to love going out to Loudon County especially western Loudon (which I still do). However, I really, really get freaked out when I go through ashburn these days - kinda like a sci fi movie where everything is monolithic and sterile.My view is the problem is so much development at once. Where I live in OT alexandria, there was once a bunch of similar garbage housing (200 years ago) Over time, styles changed making stuff next door look very dissimilar. Moreover, the garbage stuff got weeded out over time, leaving mostly the fantastic stuff we see today.Well, Ashburn is now in its land grab phase Alexandria was in 200 years ago. Architecture is marginalized - its all about "dollars per square foot". It will take a generation for styles to change, and the inferior housing to be torn down. Some point after that, Ashburn will become a nice, visually attractive place to look at. Until then, I will continue to get that stepford wives vibe every time I pass it by.
amy and crt,Wow. Are you seriously judging its "soul" by the types of houses they built here? Is Arlington yuppie central then? Ashburn is certainly not for everybody -- it's actually not even my cup of tea -- but I can find good in most every living situation so let me give you a few reasons why one would live here.Affordability. Nice, one bedroom apartment = $975/mo. Yes, I looked in Arlington, but a comparable apartment was $1500/mo plus a lot of bizarre move-in fees. (Why is there an actual "move-in fee"? Isn't that called "rent"?) I can expand that to more affordable homes, even though you may not like what they look like. You can buy a 3/2 TH here for about $250K now.Easy commute. Weird, right? Not if you work in Herndon. 11 miles on bike via W&OD trail or 20 minute commute by car. Believe it or not, a large number of people that live here do NOT commute to DC.Safety. As a single female, I feel safe walking at night here.Parking. (Underrated point.) When I go to the store, movies, a friend's house, etc., it's actually nice to find a parking space w/o driving around for 15 minutes or have to pay for it.Proximity to wineries. (This should probably be my #1 point.) As a wino, I appreciate being 15 minutes from several wineries.And yes, the family factor. A friend of mine LOVES living in Ashburn because she's a mommy and has a bunch of mommy friends. I'm single and don't understand that, but it's just another reason why people like living here.Affordability. Yes, I'm mentioning it again because it's important.And since you are ragging on my place of residence, I feel compelled to be the spelling police. It's "LOUDOUN", double OU.
This is why those of us in North Arlington (particularly those of us within walking distance of Metrorail) aren't worrying about the housing downturn:(from today's Herald Tribune)Life on the fringes of U.S. suburbia becomes untenable with rising gas costs By Peter S. GoodmanTuesday, June 24, 2008 ELIZABETH, Colorado: Suddenly, the economics of American suburban life are under assault as skyrocketing energy prices inflate the costs of reaching, heating and cooling homes on the outer edges of metropolitan areas.Just off Singing Hills Road, in one of hundreds of two-story homes dotting a former cattle ranch beyond the southern fringes of Denver, Phil Boyle and his family openly wonder if they will have to move close to town to get some relief.They still revel in the space and quiet that has drawn a steady exodus from U.S. cities toward places like this for more than half a century. Their living room ceiling soars two stories high. A swing-set sways in the breeze in their backyard. Their wrap-around porch looks out over the flat scrub of the high plains to the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains.But life on the distant fringes of suburbia is beginning to feel untenable. Boyle and his wife must drive nearly an hour to their jobs in the high-tech corridor of southern Denver. With gasoline at more than $4 a gallon, Boyle recently paid $121 to fill his pickup truck with diesel. The price of propane to heat their spacious house has more than doubled in recent years.Though Boyle finds city life unappealing, it's now up for reconsideration."Living closer in, in a smaller space, where you don't have that commute," he said. "It's definitely something we talk about. Before it was, 'We spend too much time driving.' Now, it's, 'We spend too much time and money driving."'As the realization takes hold that rising energy prices are less a momentary blip than a restructuring with lasting consequences, the high cost of fuel is threatening to slow the decades-old migration away from cities, while exacerbating the housing downturn by diminishing the appeal of larger homes set far from urban jobs.In Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Minneapolis, homes beyond the urban core have been falling in value faster than those within, according to analysis by Moody's Economy.com.In Denver, housing prices in the urban core rose steadily from 2003 until late last year compared with previous years, before dipping nearly 5 percent in the past three months of last year, according to Economy.com. But house prices in the suburbs began falling earlier, in the middle of 2006, and then accelerated, dropping by 7 percent the past three months of the year.Many factors have propelled the unraveling of U.S. real estate, from the mortgage crisis to a staggering excess of home construction, making it hard to pinpoint the impact of any single force. But economists and real estate agents are growing convinced that the rising cost of energy is a primary factor pushing home prices down in the suburbs - particularly in the outer rings.More than three-fourths of prospective homebuyers are more inclined to live in an urban area because of fuel prices, according to a recent survey of 903 real estate agents with Coldwell Banker, a national brokerage.Some proclaim the unfolding demise of suburbia."Many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and '70s - slums characterized by poverty, crime and decay," said Christopher Leinberger, an urban land use expert, in a recent essay in the Atlantic Monthly.Most experts do not share such apocalyptic visions, seeing instead a gradual reordering."It's like an ebbing of this suburban tide," said Joe Cortright, an economist at the consulting group Impresa in Portland, Oregon. "There's going to be this kind of reversal of desirability. Typically, Americans have felt the periphery was most desirable, and now there's going to be a reversion to the center."In a recent study, Cortright found that house prices in the urban centers of Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Portland and Tampa have fared significantly better than those in the suburbs. So-called exurbs - communities sprouting on the distant edges of metropolitan areas - have suffered worst of all, Cortright found.Basic household arithmetic appears to be furthering the trend: In 2003, the average suburban household spent $1,422 a year on gasoline, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By April of this year - when gas prices were about $3.60 a gallon - the same household was buying gas at a rate of $3,196 a year, more than doubling consumption in dollar terms in less than five years.In March, Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles on public roads than in the same month the previous year, a 4.3 percent decrease. It was the sharpest one-month drop since the Federal Highway Administration began keeping records in 1942.Long before the recent spike in the price of energy, environmentalists decried suburban sprawl as a waste of land, energy, and tax dollars: Governments from Virginia to California have in recent decades lavished resources on building roads and schools for new subdivisions in the outer rings of development while skimping on maintaining facilities closer in. Many governments now focus on reviving their downtowns.In Denver - a classic American city with snarling freeway traffic across a vast acreage of strip malls, ranch houses and office parks - the city has seen an urban renaissance over the past decade.A planned $6.1 billion commuter rail system has been going in over the past four years, drawing people downtown without cars, while crystallizing swift sales of densely clustered condos near stations.Coors Field, the intimate, brick-fronted baseball stadium for the Colorado Rockies, has transformed the surrounding area from a desolate area into trendy Lower Downtown, a neighborhood of restaurants and microbreweries in restored warehouses. Along the Platte River, new condos set on a park strip offer an arresting tableau of glass, steel, and futuristic geometry, attracting throngs of buyers at rising prices."This is a city where it's fun to be in the center," said Tim Burleigh, 56, who sold his house in the suburbs and now walks to Rockies games from his downtown condo.To Denver's Mayor John Hickenlooper, $4 gasoline offers a useful push forward on such plans."It can be an accelerator," he said during an interview inside the imposing, column-fronted City Hall. "It's not going to be the dagger in the heart of suburban sprawl, but there's a certain inclination, a certain momentum back toward downtown."Elizabeth is the archetype of a once-rural community sucked into the orbit of the expanding metropolis, its ranchlands given over to porches, picket fences and two-car garages.Megan Werner, 39, a mother of three, moved here five years ago from a suburb closer to Denver, where the houses were packed together. She and her husband bought a home set on a 1.5 acre, or 0.61 hectare, lot in the Deer Creek Farm subdivision. The space justified her husband's 40-minute commute."We wanted more than a postage stamp," she said, as her 5-year-old daughter walked barefoot across the driveway.It used to cost her about $30 to fill her Honda minivan with gas. Now, it's more like $50, and she coordinates her trips - shopping in town, combined with dance lessons for her kids. But she has no thoughts of leaving."I can open up my door, and my kids can play," Werner said.For others, though, new math is altering the choice of where to live. Houses are sitting on the market longer than years past. "The pool of buyers is diminishing," said Jace Glick, a realtor with Re/Max Alliance in Parker, next to Elizabeth.Juanita Johnson and her husband, both retired Denver school teachers, moved here last August, after three decades in the city and a few years in the mountains. They bought a four-bedroom house for $415,000.Last winter, they spent $3,000 just on propane to heat the place, she said. Suddenly, this seems like a place to flee."We'd sell if we could, but we'd lose our shirt," Johnson said. On a recent walk, she counted 15 "For Sale" signs. A similar home nearby is listed below $400,000."I was so glad to get out of the city, the pollution the traffic, the crime," she said. Now, the suburbs seem mean. "I wouldn't do this again."
"Kristina said... amy and crt,Wow. Are you seriously judging its "soul" by the types of houses they built here?"Kristina - I cant speak for Amy, but yes as a matter of fact I am judging its soul by the types of houses built there. Today - there are a handful of major builders that control the exurban market. Everything for them is a formula: (1) clearcut everything - mature trees can get in the way and would require actual planning - we cant have that - time is money!!!(2) Everything shall be uniform in size - dont waste money on exteriors - brick on one side is enough! No actual architectural style either - lets blend all styles into one - its best to appeal to the broadest segment of the population even it it means going towards the lowest common denominator. (3) Abolish exterior features that used to have function but now are too costly. The front porch is becoming a thing of the past - no real chance for neighbors to see each other out, stop and socialize. Further, look carefully at "walkways". Time was they led from the sidewalk to the front door - this was back when people actuall walked places. Now half of them lead from the DRIVEWAY to the front door - an acknowledgement that if anyone stops for a pop in these days, it is after they were driving, not walking by. (4) Stripmalls galore!!! Retail shall be a set formula. Start with something safe and proven like a chain restaurant - cheesecake factory for example. The retail managers rationale - why take the risk on an unknown unproven independent italian restaurant when we can put in a Carabbas and pack em in every night!Now, before I get bombarded with comments about me being an elitist let me say a few things:(1) unlike many of the close in boosters, I recognize that places, "out there" contain beauty beyond belief. Old Town leesburg is doing a respectable job at retaining its soul. Same thing with middleburg, the plains, paris, delaplane, etc. Western loudoun, faquier, clarke, etc, - places with small town personality, foxhunting (yes they still do that) horses & wineries have a majesty to them that is normally not seen outside of the best places in europe.(2) Arlington is kinda on my shit list for the same reasons noted above - yes there are some cool old bungalows and sears houses, but the retail has largely given way to national chains, and is slowly losing its soul. If I see one more "luxury condo" building going up with "maintenance free" brick I think I am going to throw up! (3) I am very opinionated on this subject not only because like most of us I am was a child of suburbia - but also because one of my biggest clients is one of the big builders. Its amazing how much they have EVERYTHING down to a formula - from the minimum distance between houses for people to feel privacy - to the amount of candlepower streetlights must emit to give us a general sense of "safety" - to the colors and palattes that will appeal to the largest segment of society - even if it does mean going towards the lowest common denominator. They sell us a bill of goods, and we buy it - every time! (4) It doesnt have to be this way!!! The biggies are finally realizing that the words "mixed use" isnt pure evil anymore. The development of seaside (location of the truman show) was a seminal moment in the building industry. Apparently if you build something different, yet still AFFORDABLE, you as the developer can get a premium for the amount of land bought. This is a start, but we the end users need to get pickier with what we buy. We as the end users need to DEMAND BETTER! They will listen to us if they want to survive.I am extremely opinionated on this subject in large part because I love to travel here and abroad. This country used to have a huge regional character and uniqueness to it. Slowly, this is diminishing and being replaced with the land of McCulture. The day may soon come where you can travel from DC to LA to Kansas City to Memphis, and eat at the same places, shop at the same stores, and live in the same residence. The only real difference between them is the name of the airports we pass through. In my mind, this is a sad sad day. If everything is the same, why travel?Perhaps I am alone in this view. Maybe the majority of Americans look foward to the day when they dont have to worry about the unknown - everything will be known and the same, and maybe thats what they want. However, I refuse to believe that. Traveling around the world as much as I have made me realize that uniqueness is somehting to be treasured. This is something this area still has, and for me it deserves to be saved, even if it means I pay a bit more for my food, housing, experiences, etc. Sorry about that diatribe there - I will get off my soapbox now. Loudoun still has some decent things going for it. It just needs to be mindful of whether things like "character" and "uniqueness" are important to it going foward.
Tom: if folks in the 'burbs can't afford gas, just how in the hell are they supposed to afford North Arlington (and prop up prices)?
crt,(1) Tree cutting to build homes and condos is happening everywhere (hence, the housing bubble), not sure why Ashburn is considered to be any different.(2) This goes back to affordability. Builders make cookie-cutter homes because it's cost-efficient. Homes in Ashburn may be too "stepford wives" for you but thousands of people opted to buy them. Perhaps they like them, perhaps they could AFFORD them, perhaps they appreciate having more than two bedrooms and one bathroom to share amongst the family.(3) Okay, this comment actually made me laugh. I wasn't aware that people in this area socialized at all. It doesn't matter whether you have a porch/garage/sidewalk or where it's located, friendliness in this area is virtually non-existant.(4) I agree w/you on this point.Convenience has taken over this country. Homebuilders build the same kind of home b/c it's convenient (and cheaper). Stripmalls, convenient. Restaurant chains, convenient. This is not typical of only Ashburn and if you think the commoner has a voice, I'd say it's wishful thinking on your part.Again, I'm not a fan of suburbia, but it does appeal to a lot of people, including justin and his wife, and has its good points. Would I, a single female living in minivan hell, pay a 50% premium to live in the beloved Arlington? Nope.
I wouldn't live in a stinky 50years old house close to metro and pay twice the price compare to ashburn. I have no need to go to D.C. since my job is in Herndon/Reston area. I would prefer not to go to D.C. if I don't have to since it's old and dirty. Not counting having to dodge the bullets at night time for people who live there.
I lived in Loudoun county for a short while, and personally, I prefer it to Fairfax. The only downside for me was that amenities were few at the time (restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores), but now all of that has changed.In contrast, I find Fairfax to be noisy, crowded, and polluted, and to me, it just gets worse the farther in you go. Family reasons have me in Fairfax (which, I think could have been a great place, but poor planning screwed it up), but if I had my druthers, I'd prefer Loudoun.
NoVAwatcher said... "Tom: if folks in the 'burbs can't afford gas, just how in the hell are they supposed to afford North Arlington (and prop up prices)?"NOVA, most folks in the 'burbs can't afford Arlington, pure and simple. Like most folks in Queens or the Bronx can't afford Manhattan. But in many ways that explain why Manhattan real estate remains very expensive, N. Arlington real estate has a built-in price premium that won't go away and that limits its affordability to a small portion of RE buyers. But that portion is enough to keep N. Arlington prices just fine during the current price destruction around the region.
Tom,"...But that portion is enough to keep N. Arlington prices just fine during the current price destruction around the region..."Sorry to do some 'hit and run' comments as I am busy, but can't help asking--If what you say is the case, do you think this portion of rich people will keep buying even if $2 m is asked for a $1m property? What is the upper limit to this willingness to overpay by rich people? If what you say is true, why are prices stagnating? And do you have evidence--hard numbers-- that this willingness to overpay is a characteristic of such rich people that has come about only in the last 5 years? or, that the portion of such rich people has risen very high in the last few years?
TEDK,Who said anything about overpaying? I'm saying there are enough people willing to pay the "Arlington premium" (i.e., consider the premium is worth paying in order to enjoy the benefits of living in N. Arlington) that prices haven't been hurt much, if at all, by the housing meltdown in the outer suburbs. I agree that prices in N. Arlington, in general, are stagnant (though some neighborhoods continue to see modest price increases). But in this market, "stagnant" is a good thing!
The clear-cutting and chain-store brand-newness of Ashburn sort of freaks me out. Also, the houses are so near each other that the year is unuseably tiny IMHO.CRT: My N. arlington house has a walk to both the drive and sidewalk...I take metro and drive on the weekends! That's a nice example of the "evolution" of a neighborhood that you mentioned.Kristina: When we moved in (ice-storm in Feb) our next door neighbor brought over homemade cookies and a gift cert for a local pizza shop. Then, each neighbor in a three block radius introduced themselves as time progressed. Our neighborhood has a block part on 4th of July even! My point is this old, established neighborhood is quite friendly. All: I work in DC and had a 1hr. 15 min commute from MoCo (Montgomery County) so for me, time is "worth the premium" as I LOVE my Husband and time with him!!! Finally, I am surprised to find that I use my front porch, but I do.
Tom,When the renting is much cheaper than owning (counting all financial benefits of owning) in the same area, people are overpaying to own. I don't think anyone disputes that there is a North Arlington premium. The real question is that, when all of the surrounding areas continue to see prices dropping sharply, the premium that people will have to pay to live in N.Arlington will conrtinue to rise sharply if prices stay at current levels in ARL; so, will your 'rich' people think ARL is so desirable that it is still worth paying such a huge premium?If you say yes, you need to show there is a fundamental change either in society's preferences (that they didn't appreciate the charms of ARL until a few years ago) or in the intrinsic goodness of ARL.Otherwie, the stagnation could simply be a prelude to further price drops.
TedK: The "great American dream" is to own a house. Some still feel that way. If that is your dream, and you work in DC, then yes, Arlington might maintain its attractiveness if time is also valued. Builders, when they find a place to build close-in, are building apartments, not houses. Therefore, it is likely that SFHs will maintain their value even if values of other things (TH, condos) drop. That's my 2cents while I munch on popcorn...(do I loose points for stealing the tag lines of others?)
Amy,Several people made similar arguments for why prices of SFH's in FFX wouldn't fall, but they were clearly wrong. Would these arguments hold for ARL? These are just variations of "they are not making any more land in ARL" arguments, which do not look at the demand side or explain why prices rose steeply and then stagnated.
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