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SUMMER 2018 | PAGE 13

Real Estate Summer 2018

D.C. Housing Market Fares Well if Amazon or Apple Enter the Fray

by Matt Delaney

Falls Church News-Press

The possibility of Amazon and Apple selecting the Washington, D.C. metro area as their second homes brings significant change to the region on multiple fronts, with the City of Falls Church and surrounding areas positioned to withstand the surge in residents and possible spike in demand as well as benefit from their inclusion in the local ecosystem. For those who are unaware, here’s the skinny: Amazon’s HQ2 has been the hottest ticketed item on the national market for the past nine months, with last fall’s original list of 238 hopeful sites

being chopped down to 20 in early 2018. Three spots in the D.C. area made the first round of cuts, with the District, Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland all jockeying for 50,000 jobs, $5 billion in direct investment and $38 billion in indirect investment that the company has promised to bestow upon the winner. Conversely, Apple has been hush-hush about its own selection process. While the local sites proposed include Tysons Corner, Alexandria’s Eisenhower Avenue as well as Dulles and Crystal City locations Amazon has also eyed, the company hasn’t given any indication where it will build its new headquarters and provide

20,000 jobs to the area. But both tech giants plan to decide where to move before the year ends. The region meets many of the pair’s prerequisites — from an educated, tech-focused workforce to mass public transit and access to international travel — so now pundits are starting to tease out the pros and cons of either’s entry into the residential and business landscape. “It’s difficult judge. Companies want to make their new headquarters sound as attractive as possible, but it should be taken with a grain of salt,” Ryan Bourne, chair for the public understanding of economics at the libertarian CATO institute, said. “Congestion

SCENIC F.C. HOMES, such as these near E. Broad St., will likely see a gradual increase in potential buyers over the next year or so if either Amazon or Apple come to the area. Depending on their mortgages, owners may be open to selling to the region’s newcomers, if the price is right. (Photo: News-Press) by way of new jobs coming to the market drives up housing demand, so we can’t pretend those are all positive impacts, but a lot of those described as ‘cons’ are what you have when there’s a strong economy anyway.” Friction caused by housing affordability shouldn’t extend in perpetuity as long as local communities respond with proper

policies. According to Bourne, Northern Virginia as a whole absorbs influxes of new workers better than most regions, and the area’s home prices are comparable to the Seattle and Northern California areas where Amazon and Apple, respectively, are

Continued on Page 14

INSIDE: New Data, Same Story: F.C.’s Pricey Houses page 15 | How Schools Affect Home Values page 17 | F.C. Home Sales #s pages 20–21

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PAGE 14 | SUMMER 2018


Fluid Market Offers Avenues for Both Reprieve & Reward Continued from Page 13

migrating from. And though heavily developed areas, such as the possible D.C. site for Amazon, the Alexandria site for Apple and the Crystal City site for both, affordability spikes will be felt more acutely than in exurbs of the Dulles Technology Corridor or Montgomery County. Factoring into the affordability equation is inventory keeping pace with demand. According to Derrick Swaak, a partner at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty firm in McLean, the number of home listings have gone down 20 to 25 percent in the past two years, despite stable demand. But with interest rates climbing back up, sellers may be willing to step out of their mortgages to incoming

residents. That would add previously unaccounted inventory back into the market, give developers more time to build new homes and ease the general pressure on housing prices to rise. Chairman of the board for the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, Lorraine Arora, seconded Swaak’s take and added that if either Apple or Amazon were to relocate to the area, employees from the companies wouldn’t flood the market all at once but instead show up in waves. Arora also mentioned that Amazon had recently approached the Virginia Housing Development Authority about mortgage estimates and affordability in Northern Virginia. Principal broker for Silver Line Realty Group in Tysons, Tracey Comstock, added that the only

precedent for such a move was when Hilton relocated from Beverly Hills to D.C. roughly 10 years ago, and then only a few hundred workers came. Still, per Comstock, the employees typically rented for a year before buying a condo near their workplace. Even with the big-picture issues at stake, the City of Falls Church finds itself in a comfortable spot. City Council member Ross Litkenhous, who works as a vice president of strategic development at real estate analytics firm Altus Group, believes that Falls Church’s direct abstinence from the HQ2 sweepstakes puts it in a win-win situation. The City avoids having to account for possible fiscal and budgetary constraints that it would if it was planning to host Amazon in the city proper and

can judiciously market itself to newcomers as forward-thinking locality inside the beltway. Both Litkenhous and Bourne were shaky on how precise the tens of billions of dollars in indirect investment from either Apple or Amazon is. Some of it is sure to come in the form of construction for new homes and the actual headquarters, but that projection was intended to describe a long-term effect. Bourne referred efforts to nail down a prediction as a “mug’s game,” and Litkenhous thought that number was contingent on too many factors at the local, state and federal level to be confident in it. But he echoed the local realtors that either company’s addition would be significant for the region, with Litkenhous singling out the resource for local

CRYSTAL CITY looks to be an enticing location to some of those working in the real estate industry, such as F.C. City Councilmen Ross Litkenhous. While realtors believe the Dulles Technology Corridor offers more room to grow for the possible 20,000 – 70,000 employees relocating here from either Amazon or Apple, CATO’s Ryan Bourne believes the urban vs. suburban choice depends on whether the companies’ are bringing over established workers or hiring newer, younger ones in the area. (Photo: News-Press)

students and occupational opportunities down the road. “The future job market for our children will be technology centric. Computer programming, robotics, engineering, social cue and language learning for AI and even vocational jobs that build and repair technological components are all on the horizon,” Litkenhous said. “An injection of capital and demands for highly trained employees centered around a tech company like Amazon or Apple will enhance and drive better education around technology in our schools whether public or private, primary, secondary and beyond.” For now, the effects of either company are still speculative. Litkenhous predicted in a guest commentary for the News-Press last month that Crystal City is the frontrunner for Amazon at the moment because of its large amount of fallow office space owned by JBG Smith in the area. Moving there would allow Amazon to work with a developer that controls a sizeable chunk of that submarket and permits them to work with a private entity that can be more flexible and innovative to the company’s needs. As it pertains to Apple, recent reports have shown the company is leaning toward a relocation to North Carolina’s Research Triangle, though nothing is set in stone at the moment. To Bourne, Amazon’s possible entrance into the D.C. market would be a sign that the company is looking to be closer to a federal government that’s taken an interest in regulating online enterprises as of late (with Amazon’s lobbying efforts doubling since President Trump’s election). On a separate note: Bourne cautions about the precedent the auction atmosphere of HQ2 presents after bids from a few of the remaining jurisdictions revealed extensive tax incentives. “Most of the economic literature on these incentives is clear — these kind of company-specific packages don’t tend to be good from a public finance perspective,” Bourne added. “What’s more important is having a good business environment.” As the decision becomes more discernible throughout the year, the City won’t lose its optimal spot. According to Litkenhous, Falls Church is in the driver’s seat. It can be determine how it embraces Amazon and Apple as the City is lean enough to adapt to whatever path it chooses. But, of course, this all remains subject to the both companies’ final selections by the end of 2018.



SUMMER 2018 | PAGE 15

F.C. Housing Prices Still Highest in Area Per Newest Data



Despite a drop in housing prices, supply and demand continue to make Fall Church the most expensive location in the region in multiple metrics. According to May 2018 data provided by ShowingTime based on listing activity, the median City of Falls Church sales prices was $619,000 for this May, a drop of $210,000 when compared to May 2017, and a decline of almost $100,000 in the median price year-to-date change from $747,500 to $649,700. Along with that, Falls Church joins Arlington as the only two local jurisdictions to have their per-square-foot cost of housing exceed $400, with the City totaling at $424, up 2.7 percent from 2017. Overall, the median for the Washington, D.C. Metro area climbed to $435,900 from $425,000 year-to-date and was $465,000 in May. The Falls Church housing inventory rose by almost 26 percent from last May to this May. More inventory is good news for buyers, but it’s still tough to

find a house in the Little City where houses last in the marketplace an average of only seven days, a drop from eight days last year, according to the report. The D.C. metro region median was nine days. Maureen Dawson, a Northern Virginia real estate veteran of 22 years, thinks buyers are attracted to Falls Church because of its outstanding location inside the Beltway, its proximity to two Metro stations, the good schools, restaurants, and the shorter commute than Vienna or Reston residents have on their way into the District of Columbia. Mary Bowen and David Gillis, managing brokers for the Long and Foster Falls Church office, agree, and advise buyers to work with a realtor who may have an inside track on homes coming up for sale which are not listed online. “Be prepared for a competitive market,” they wrote in an email to the News-Press. Buyers unfamiliar with Falls Church experience initial “sticker shock” according to the brokers. Sellers get almost 100 percent of their asking prices throughout the region, says the report.

EVEN WITH the City of Falls Chuch experiencing some high housing costs in various categories, the market remains attractive to buyers. (P����: N���-P����) Louise Molton is the principal broker at Re/Max in Falls Church and she thinks prices do not discourage buyers as much as multiple offers on the properties they want do. “There is only one winner, no one gets a trophy if they come in second,” she wrote in an email. The stronger a buyer’s position, the better off the buyer is, Dawson said. “Some buyers may have to travel a bit more and look in

areas where there’s not as much competition.” She has seen lots of changes in real estate over the 35 years she’s lived in the area. “Now there are not a lot of move-ups when you start in a townhome, buy a starter home and then move to a larger one,” she said. Inventory is smaller compared to the past when retirees sold and moved away. “People in their 60s and 70s

are not running away from the area any more. They are staying closer to their families, working longer and not moving to Florida and other places in the south when they hit 65. “The more I work, the sharper I stay,” Dawson said. She advises buyers to have patience. “It’s a tight market all over,” she says but no one beats Falls Church when it comes to location.

Buying or Selling, these is no substitue for experience

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PAGE 16 | SUMMER 2018

R EA L E STATE A Falls Church News-Press Advertorial


M e e t Fa l l s C h u rc h’ s Re a l E s t a t e E x p e r t s Bethany Ellis, Long and Foster

Bethany Ellis is a full time and professional Residential Real Estate Agent serving the Northern Virginia area and more specifically Falls Church, Falls Church City, McLean, Arlington, Herndon, Reston and Great Falls. Bethany loves her job because she works with people and so many personalities. Did you know there are typically 10 people in a transaction that Bethany has to work with and manage on her client’s behalf? She is excited to be able to help her clients smoothly transition through the buying or selling of a very precious commodity, their home! Bethany is tech savvy with a personal touch. Using modern tech tools and the many advantages that the Internet has to offer, Bethany is a local marketing expert. She will also be present with you every step of the way. Bethany’s goal is to help guide you through the buying and selling process with expertise and experience while ensuring you are at ease. Bethany has sold over $115 Million Dollars of Northern Virginia Real Estate and she can help you too! If you have Real Estate questions, Bethany has the answers. Call, email or text Bethany today for a free, confidential meeting. Bethany is always happy to help you buy, sell or invest in real estate. Bethany Ellis, Long and Foster 1355 Beverly Rd., #109 McLean, VA 22101 • 703-307-7003 •

M������ K���, M�E������� A��������� Falls Church City is my family’s home, and I have had the privilege of being a REALTOR here since 1970. My husband Art and I raised our children here and I’m delighted that my daughter Karin Kaye Morrison joined us in the business. I remain as passionate about serving the needs of my clients today as I was the day I started. And that’s because it’s not just about selling homes — it’s about selling the unmatched quality of life we have in Falls Church and being a committed member of the community. I served on the Falls Church City Historic Commission and the BIE, I was a founding member of the Friends of Cherry Hill, and am president of Historic Falls Church. For years I served on the Mt. Daniel Library Committee putting on Book Fairs featuring famous children’s book authors. I love Falls Church, and the fact that I have had the opportunity to serve many of my clients, and their children, multiple times is the strongest testimony that I have the knowledge and the marketing and negotiating skills to assure your smooth home buying or selling experience. It has been my privilege to have sold more real estate in The City than anyone. There is no substitute for experience and passion. Merelyn Kaye, McEnearney Associates 1320 Old Chain Bridge Rd., Suite 350, McLean, VA 22101 • 703-362-1112 •

Long & Foster, Falls Church, VA

Tori McKinney, Keller Williams

Tori LOVES being a Realtor. And she loves her community. She and her family moved to Falls Church City 20 years ago. In 1998 as a new member of Falls Church City, Tori believed a sense of community would require active participation, and she has lead by example for the past two decades. She actively supports: Falls Church City Schools, Falls Church Education Foundation, Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, FIRSTFriday/Art-a-Lot, Tinner Hill Blues Festival, Falls Church Arts, and Taste of Falls Church. Tori serves as Vice-Chair on the Housing Commission, is a member of FCCPS Business in Education, and serves on the Board of Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation. Tori has often been recognized for her community involvement. She was named Pillar of the Community by the Falls Church Chamber, named one of the Top Producing Real Estate Agents by Washingtonian Magazine, for five consecutive years, has been voted Best Real Estate Agent, and for 2017 has been voted Best Real Estate Group in the Falls Church News Press ‘Best of Falls Church’. As a tireless Falls Church advocate, Tori has helped countless families buy and sell homes over the past 14 years. Tori puts her heart and soul into the Falls Church community, and she LOVES what she gets in return. When you’re ready to buy or sell your home, call Tori, your Falls Church expert for ROCK STAR Service. Tori McKinney, ROCK STAR Realty, Keller Williams Realty 2101 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201 • 703-867-8674 •

T����� R������, B�����, K���� R����� From our World Headquarters based at 712 W. Broad Street ( 53 years and counting) My Associate Mosi Shah and I have travelled the area far and wide on a variety of transactions. We tackle all kinds of Real Estate transactions, helping Sellers and Purchasers, Landlords and Tenants from Woodbridge to Purcellville, Alexandria to McLean. We are excited about the changes in Falls Church City, and feel fortunate to have a great spot right on Broad in the center of the fray. We congratulate our Chamber Board and our Executive, Sally Cole, along with the indispensable Cathy Soltys, for bringing a strong and logical voice in the Community in this time of change. Treena Rinaldi, Korte Realty 712 W. Broad St. Falls Church, VA 22046 •703-927-3863 703-532-7704 (o) •

K�� T������, TTR S������’� I������������ R�����

Through the doors of the Long & Foster Falls Church/Arlington office you will find some of the best real estate agents in all of Northern Virginia. Our agents live, work, and volunteer in the neighborhoods and communities where they list and sell. Some of our sales associates have lived here for decades. Collectively, we have helped thousands of clients accomplish their goal of buying their dream home. We are part of the fabric of this area and we welcome the opportunity to work with you in selling your current home, purchasing a new home, or relocating anywhere in the U.S. or the world. We have an on-site Prosperity Home Mortgage loan officer for your convenience to discuss financing options for your next purchase or refinance. We can assist you with homeowner’s insurance, moving estimates, home inspections, home warranties and all the services you will need for the smooth settlement of your transaction. And if you would like to explore a career in real estate with a dynamic and friendly office, our manager is available at your convenience to speak with you about a future career here in the Long & Foster Falls Church/Arlington office. With licenses in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C., our agents are ready to serve your real estate needs throughout the greater DMV area.

Named as one of Washington, DC’s Top Producing Agents (Washingtonian, 2018), Ken specializes in showcasing and selling Falls Church homes. By preparing a custom marketing plan for each listing, Ken’s listings have been featured in the FCNP, as well as The Washington Post, Washington Business Journal, Curbed DC, and DC Magazine. Ken’s custom marketing strategies have resulted in his listings selling for Top Dollar and setting sales records in the Falls Church area. Prior to becoming a top producing Realtor®, Ken was a successful litigation attorney in Washington, DC, and draws frequently from that experience in his real estate career, saying: “The skills to be a successful Realtor® are the same skills it takes to be a successful lawyer. I focus on making my clients’ interests my sole priority and zealously strive to achieve the best results for each client.” Ken also hosts the home-related video series, Home Trends with Ken, featuring tips to help homeowners create a home that inspires them while adding value. View episodes of the series on Ken’s blog at Finally, when it comes time to sell your home, give yourself the Ken Trotter Advantage. For more information about the Ken Trotter Advantage, reach out to him directly.

Long & Foster Falls Church, VA 6299 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22044 • 703-534-9660 •

Ken Trotter, J.D., Realtor, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty 703-863-0650 (c) 745-1212 (o);



SUMMER 2018 | PAGE 17

FALLS CHURCH HIGH SCHOOL (left) and George Mason High School sit only a few miles apart, but their ratings on sites like Great Schools and US News differ drastically. Falls Church recieved a three and Mason an eight which causes some homebuyers to pay more in order to be in Mason’s school district. (Photo: News Press)

School Ratings Affect Home Prices & Buyer Decisions by Adam Rosenfeld

Falls Church News-Press

Home to some of the top ranked schools in the state, the City of Falls Church and its neighbor Fairfax County are known for their competitive educational opportunities. School ratings, therefore, have a sizeable impact on real estate values and buyer decisions in the area. Parents looking to buy a new home show concern about their future school district. Ann Yanagihara, vice president of the Vienna branch of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, said that the reputation of schools is usually one of the top questions she gets asked when showing a home. “For a lot of my clients, it was a significant factor in what they were looking for,” she said. “Many would even settle for less house to be in a better school district.” While a realtor might want to offer advice in relation to school choices, the Fair Housing Act restricts them from steering parents toward specific institutions. Instead, the realtors must direct parents to sites like Great Schools.

Great Schools is a site tailored to parents which rates institutions on a scale of 1-10 according to factors like college readiness, test scores and student progress. The site is specific to each state and gives these ratings so users can compare schools. However, the site though does not actually rank the schools. “What we’re doing here is for parents,” Carrie Groux, the Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for the company said. “We’re really trying to empower them with that essential information that they need to unlock opportunities for their kids.” The website generates these ratings from the information released by the Department of Education in each state as well as the Civil Rights Data Collection. As soon as the states release their information each year, the site makes the necessary changes to keep the ratings as up to date as possible. This wellspring of easily accessible information available to parents keeps many from actually visiting schools and talking to other parents in the community.

Heather Embrey, a realtor with Better Homes and Gardens in Falls Church, said she thinks parents rely too heavily on these scores and that there are lower rated schools which could compete with the more reputable ones. “There are some very low-rated schools that are excellent,” she said. “If you speak to the parents who have their children go to these schools, they’re raving about how wonderful it is, but then you look on Great Schools, and it’s a 2 or 3. So it’s very frustrating.” According to the Great Schools ratings, three of the most respected schools in the area, George Mason, Marshall and McLean High School all scored well, with an 8, 6 and 9 respectively. They also rank second, eighth and fifth in the state according to the most recent 2018 US News & World Report Best High School rankings. These rankings have now become a major impetus behind parents choosing Fairfax County to raise a family. However, before the advent of the internet and the founding of sites like Great Schools, parents had to rely mostly on the word of

other families. But, while these sites have made research simpler, homebuyers have always had a vested interest in the school district surrounding their home, Louise Molton, a realtor from RE/Max West End in Falls Church, said. “I’ve lived in Falls Church over 30 years and school ratings have always been a big factor,” she said. “It used to be a lot more word-of mouth, but schools did have their reputation, and parents want to put their children in what they consider the best school. The internet has just dialed it up to a different level.” Not only will parents choose to live in a smaller house in order to be in a better school district, but some will even pay more. Northern Virginia can garner some of the highest home prices in the country and the quality of schools plays a big part. In Falls Church, the dividing line between the City and the rest of Falls Church can cause prices to jump by up to $200,000. Molton said that this is due to the reputation of the schools in the City of Falls Church which exceeds everything outside of it.

“People will absolutely pay more to be in Falls Church City, and the main reason is the schools,” she said. George Mason, which boasts the second highest ranking in the state and serves the City of Falls Church, highlights this disparity when compared to Falls Church High School, a school lying outside the boundaries of the City. It received a three on Great Schools and goes unranked in the state. The arrival of online sites like Great Schools has been revolutionary in creating new avenues for homebuyers to gain a better understanding of the schools to which they could be sending their kids. Although, while these sites are beneficial as a component of their investigation, Embrey urged parents to remember that these are just numbers in an algorithm and that they need to delve further into their research. “The best bit of advice is to visit schools and to get a better feel for them,” Embrey said. “Take the ratings with a grain of salt. It’s a basis to start, but i wouldn’t count your purchase on it.”


PAGE 18 | SUMMER 2018


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Real Estate

SUMMER 2018 | PAGE 19

Top Falls Church Home Sales


#2 $1,700,000

#1 $1,710,000

#3 $1,650,000 #3 $1,650,000 Top 5 F.C. Home Sales April 1 – June 30, 2018 Address #1 2103 Powhatan St. #2 6544 Placid St. #3 2127 Haycock Rd. #3 6514 Elmhirst Dr. #5 1300 Seaton Ln.


5 6 6 6 6


4 6 5 5 6

HB 1 1 1 1 0

List Price

$1,750,000 $1,650,000 $1,650,000 $1,650,000 $1,589,900

Sale Price

$1,710,000 $1,700,000 $1,650,000 $1,650,000 $1,589,900


22043 22043 22043 22043 22046

Date Sold 6/7/18 5/24/18 4/13/18 5/18/18 6/18/18

Source: MRIS, Inc.; Photos: MRIS, Falls Church News-Press

#5 $1,589,900


PAGE 20 | SUMMER 2018


Falls Church Area Housing Market — 1st Quarter 2018 Report Zip Code


Average Price

Number of Homes Sold

Average Days on Market


Falls Church City





Bailey’s Crossroads





Sleepy Hollow





Pimmit Hills





Lake Barcroft




Home Sales Vs. 1 Year Ago

Home Prices Vs. 1 Year Ago

Change in # of Homes Sold: 1Q ‘18 vs 1Q ‘17

Change in Average Home Price: 1Q ‘18 vs 1Q ‘17


Change in Falls Church City (22046)


Change in Falls Church City (22046)


Change in Bailey’s X-roads (22041)


Change in Bailey’s X-roads (22041)


Change in Sleepy Hollow (22042)


Change in Sleepy Hollow (22042)


Change in Pimmit Hills (22043)


Change in Pimmit Hills (22043)


Change in Lake Barcroft (22044)


Change in Lake Barcroft (22044)

Source: Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. Copyright © 2018 Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc.

Falls Church News-Press Summer Real Estate Issue 2018  

Falls Church News-Press Summer Real Estate Issue 2018

Falls Church News-Press Summer Real Estate Issue 2018  

Falls Church News-Press Summer Real Estate Issue 2018