Falls Church is second in the region in terms of the median sales price of homes per square foot, with the median sales price of $417 per square foot, according to statistics published in August by RealEstate Business Intelligence. Arlington has the highest median sales price of homes per square foot in Northern Virginia with a median sales price of $453.
But when home buyers get farther and farther away from Washington, D.C., the square foot housing prices drop dramatically. For example, in Stafford County, one of the furthest places out in Northern Virginia where people live and commute to work in or near Washington, D.C., the median sales price of homes per square foot is $159. Prince William County’s per square foot median home sale price is $189 and Loudoun County’s is $203.
“I’ve seen that. People can get a lot more bang for their buck if you will,” said Louise Molton, owner of Louise Molton Real Estate. “If they move further out they are going to get a bigger house for what they would pay for a two-bedroom condo for in Falls Church.” JD Callander of JD Callander & Associates, another real estate agent who works in Northern Virginia, said that she has seen the same phenomenon working in Falls Church and McLean.
Other cities and counties on the RealEstate Business Intelligence list were Alexandria City at $359, Fairfax County at $286, the City of Fairfax at $282, Manassas Park at $195 and Manassas at $175.
Fairfax County, the most populous jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia, has a wide range of housing options and prices and its per square foot median sale price is likely inflated by places in the county like McLean, Great Falls, Vienna and Tysons Corner.
Even within the most expensive places to live in Northern Virginia, there is a difference in per square foot costs for houses. “North Arlington seems to be at the top of the list as far as the home buyers that we work with,” Molton said. “Now, you can probably get more expensive homes in McLean. I mean, you’ve got the huge embassy type places, but in general if we have someone looking from $700,000 to $1 million, they are not going to get that much in North Arlington for that. They’re going to get much smaller lots.
“A lot of the sizes are 10,000 square feet in Falls Church and then they are looking at 5,000 square feet in Arlington, so they are smaller lots. And the market in North Arlington tends to move faster as well.”
But the median price per square foot translates into a much larger difference in pricing across Northern Virginia. For example, a typical 2,600 square-foot home, which was the average according figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, that is priced at $413,400 in Stafford County would go for $491,400 in Prince William County, $527,800 in Loudoun County and $743,600 in Fairfax County. But that number jumps up to $1.08 million for a typical 2,600-square foot home in Falls Church.
There are diamonds in the rough, though. The night before she spoke to the News-Press, Molton said that she just finished writing an offer for a one-bedroom condo in Arlington by Rosslyn for $150,000. “What surprises me more, sometimes, is that how little you can spend to find a place that’s close in,” she said. But she said that is not the norm.
Molton said that despite the ability of home buyers to get more space or bigger lots for their money by moving further away from Washington, location tends to be a higher priority. Several of the real estate agents who work in the Falls Church City market said that lot size is usually third or fourth in a home buyer’s list of priorities.
She said that out of the clients that she’s dealt with families and people who are downsizing are the ones who care most about home size and would choose a less expensive option in terms of per square foot housing.
“Usually it comes down to location, location, location. They want to be close in,” Molton said. “So even if they know they could get a bigger house if they move further out, the majority of the people we work with want to stay within a [good] school system and in a closer location near Metro.”
Speaking of the Metro and proximity to Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital is the obvious priciest locale in the region in terms of per square foot median sales at $520 per square foot.
Mixed in with the other, less expensive options in Northern Virginia are Montgomery County at $256 per square foot, Howard County at $215 per square foot and Anne Arundel County at $204. The Mid-Atlantic region’s per square foot median sales price is $196.