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Location is Still Top Priority for Homebuyers in Today’s Market

NEW DIMENSIONS PRESIDENT JENNIFER LANDERS shows off a stone countertop in one of the company’s custom homes. Real estate agent Bethany Ellis, who works primarily in Falls Church, said that synthetic countertops made out of tile, stone or granite are popular among home buyers. (Photo: Patricia Leslie/News-Press )
NEW DIMENSIONS PRESIDENT JENNIFER LANDERS shows off a stone countertop in one of the company’s custom homes. Real estate agent Bethany Ellis, who works primarily in Falls Church, said that synthetic countertops made out of tile, stone or granite are popular among home buyers. (Photo: Patricia Leslie/News-Press )

by Grace Hodgman

It’s an age old saying, but it still rings true for home buyers who are in the market today, according to several real estate agents who work in the region: It’s all about location. “The three things that people generally look for are location, value and condition” said Louise Molton of Molton Real Estate, which operates primarily in Falls Church.

And Falls Church City is one of the most desired places to live in Northern Virginia, according to area real estate agents. Falls Church City is popular due to its proximity to the Metro, other forms of transportation and school systems. School systems play a large role in determining where home buyers decide to buy a home. Houses feeding into McLean are very popular, as well as North Arlington, according to local real estate agents. All three of those localities have among the highest ranking school systems in the country.

Bethany Ellis, another real estate agent who works primarily in Falls Church, also said that location is the top consideration in determining what home buyers want. “Location is always number one, I think that’s where most people start, number two is probably price” said Ellis, who works for Long and Foster, said. According to Molton, the average house in Falls Church sells for $600,000.

“The start for a detached home is $350,000 starting in [the Falls Church section of Fairfax County], which can go up to $2 million in Falls Church City” Molton said. Falls Church is a slightly less expensive alternative to North Arlington, having similar access to shopping and business centers like the Mosaic District.

Sara Capoccia, a new owner of a cape cod style house, looked for several elements for a home, the key ones being upgraded kitchens and baths, a good backyard with a nice outdoor entertaining space, and “charm and character from the past since nearly all the homes in this area were built years back” Capoccia said.

Across the board, people are looking for move in ready houses. People tend to want a move in ready home, so that they can avoid renovations. When renovations are made the most common upgrades are decorative. New backsplashes and fireplace hearth and casing are added. Another element that is changed and improved in newly bought houses are porches and outdoor spaces for entertaining guests.

Updated kitchens are also really popular among current home buyers. “Stainless steel appliances and synthetic countertops like tile, stone, or granite” are popular in kitchens according to Ellis. “White kitchens are coming back,” said Tori McKinney, a Keller Williams real estate agent who works in Falls Church. “And people still like wood cabinets.” Environmentally sustainable materials are important to a lot of buyers, as well as energy-saving appliances.

Current colors that are in style are gray and white. “People have moved away from the pancake batter type of color” Molton said. Also popular now are decorative pieces that mimic the natural world, like stone backsplashes, in attempt to bring the outside world in.

There are currently more investors in the real estate market because the rental market is strong and interest rates are low. “We’re seeing people downsizing their home to move into a more urban environment,” Molton said. The most movement in home buying and selling action is caused by baby boomers and retiring people. “I’m seeing some of the baby boomers sell their single family homes to move into D.C., so that they can walk to places [rather than have to drive],” Ellis said.

On the other hand, Molton said that the recent development in Falls Church, which has given the City a more urban look and feel, has been attracting retirement age home buyers. “More people at retirement age moving into Falls Church because of the development with the housing areas and proximity to Metro, restaurants and community events.”

However, the bulk of the market consists of young professionals and families who are looking for more space and equity in a new home, like Capoccia and her husband. “We felt like we were just throwing out money at someone else’s mortgage instead of our own, so we decided to buy when we had a large enough savings for the down payment,” she said.

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