Four of the area's top real estate pros find Northern Virginia on the rise.
Despite its proximity to the nation’s capital, Northern Virginia has a vastly different real estate market from that of its neighbor across the Potomac. Local experts report that while DC’s industry remains steady, Virginia vacillates from quarter to quarter, year over year, based on factors such as school schedules and the strength of the government contracting industry.
We sat down with four industry pros to learn more about the area’s buyers and why they are on the prowl for a much different piece of the market pie. In DC, so many different factors are driving the real estate market—restaurants, retail, building amenities—but in Northern Virginia, schools are a major, even primary, factor.
Carl Bender: DC luxury buyers are going to send their kids to private school. In Arlington, McLean, and some of the better school districts in Fairfax County, buyers will send their kids through the public school system.
Derrick Swaak: We’ll have a family start out in DC, then they move to Alexandria, and then when their kids reach four or five, they move to Arlington or McLean and follow schools. That’s one of the reasons they buy in Northern Virginia. Tell us about a neighborhood people don’t really know about yet.
Heidi Ellenberger Jones: Falls Church City—it’s great.
Joan Stansfield: I worked with some buyers a few years ago who were absolutely set on getting their child into a particular school in Clarendon. Their max budget was $900,000, and they just couldn’t quite make it. I said, “Let me introduce you to Falls Church City.” I let them do the research. They found a single-family home and they’re eternally happy now.
JS: And it’s growing.
DS: It’s close to Metro.
HEJ: I also see a lot of first-time home buyers going to Falls Church proper because they can buy something for $400,000 to $500,000.
JS: With Falls Church, you get a great first-time home buyer’s price point, and you can walk to Falls Church City. So, you’ve got the beauty of Falls Church City at a much lower cost. What hot neighborhoods are up-and-coming?
JS: At the Greensboro Metro, they’re planning The Boro—that’s going to be crazy and a lot nicer than Reston Town Center. They’re going to have a football field–size park.
CB: There’s a beer garden here now, right?
JS: Yes. It’s lovely and going to become a huge destination.
DS: Have you had an opportunity to see what’s by the McLean Metro, adjacent to the mall and restaurants and the Hyatt Hotel? There are apartment buildings and a whole outdoor area. It’s pretty neat.
JS: Tysons is undergoing a huge amount of growth. Once they set up the walking and biking trails—they’re totally on their way—it’s going to become quite the destination for entertainment, restaurants, movies. The word is, people are going to say, “Oh you know, DC—it’s a suburb of Tysons.” A lot of companies and corporations have moved here, and more are coming. But there are more apartments and leasing options in Tysons than homes and condos.
DS: The condos and townhouses that do exist here in Tysons really have not gone up that much since Metro’s come in, which I think is a curiosity. It’s taking much longer, and they’re not sure why. They didn’t get that pop that they were expecting.
JS: They thought it would just shoot up, and it hasn’t—but it will.
DS: You always read about empty nesters selling their houses in McLean or Great Falls and moving into DC, but we’re really seeing more of them moving into the condos in Old Town and Arlington. People from Boston and New York, too, are retiring here, because they don’t want to move to Florida or North Carolina.
CB: Some of them have adult children who are having kids here, because of the schools or a job, and so their parents tag along.
DS: They’re interested in retiring in a place where they still have good restaurants and culture. And Northern Virginia has everything.