Three Choices Under a Million as Home Market Sizzles

Falls Church Times Staff

December 6, 2010

While much of the country continues to struggle with a supply of too many homes and too few buyers, fortunate Falls Church City continues to have the opposite problem: Too many buyers, too few houses.

It’s certainly a high-class problem to have, but the lack of inventory of single family homes for sale has frustrated buyers and recently reached what by definition is near an all-time low.

There are currently eight single-families for sale in the City, a small number in its own right. But if your budget is under $1 million, as most people’s budgets are, your choices dwindle to just three.

Those three are at 118 Greenway, 401 North Oak, and 514 Anne, and are presumably getting most of the attention from buyers about now.

“We have been getting outstanding traffic,” confirmed Dick Coogan, agent for 514 Anne, which has been on the market for just a little under three months. “We’ve had over 100 showings.”

514 Anne Street has received over 100 showings.

Despite the interest, and what Mr. Coogan called the “meticulous” condition of the home, it remains for sale. The home doesn’t have a basement and is small, which has been the primary complaint among buyers, he said. The price has been reduced once, from $575,000 to $560,000. The sellers are moving because of a job transfer.

118 Greenway, priced at $865,000.

The North Oak home is adjacent to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail and is priced at $565,000. Listing agent Bethany Ellis says the home is a bit of a fixer-upper but features good “bones” — real estate lingo for a solid and functional structure. She said she’s had over 50 showings in the first month, but buyers have balked at doing the work required to update it.

The property at 118 Greenway is priced at $865,000. Agent Isabelle Williams did not return a phone call seeking comment.

401 N. Oak, priced at $565,000 needs updating

“It’s true — there’s hardly anything on the market,” said Stacy Hennessey, an agent at Fall Properties, which recently opened an office at West and Park streets. “People are clamoring to get in here.”

Ms. Hennessey added that while the schools are a key driver of demand for City homes, access to Metro, the W&OD Trail, and the farmer’s market also are big draws.

Additionally, she said, the schools are in demand not only because of their quality, but also because of their small size.

Meanwhile, there are only five homes over $1 million available. Make that four. As this article was being written, 101 Buxton Street, a 5,500 square foot home built in 2005, the most expensive home available in the City, went under contract, priced at $1,395,000.

Ironically, as the contract for Buxton was being finalized, Ms. Hennessey was saying it was a beautiful house, but that buyers she had shown the home to had turned it down because it’s at the corner of Buxton and busy East Broad Street. Still, someone decided that wasn’t a deal-breaker.

The market for high-end homes has improved since the depths of the mortgage mess in 2008, when jumbo loans were hard to come by. A new home on Highland recently closed for $1,345,000. But that market clearly remains slower than that for homes that are lower-priced. In 2010, 18 City houses have sold in five days or less, an incredible number, but all of those quick sales sold between $460,000 and $899,000.

Even the condo market, one of the banes of the City budget, may be improving. A foreclosed condo at The Byron, 513 W. Broad, recently went under contract after just 23 days. Priced at $429,900 for a 2 bedroom, the condo sold in 2006 for $569,500 but is only assessed at $347,000.

It probably sold for well beyond the current assessment, which means the assessment, and thus the City’s revenue from it, will likely be rising. That should be music to the City Council’s ears.

Update, Dec. 7: A fourth home under $1 million is now on the market: 801 Lincoln Ave., priced at $795,000.

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By Stephen Siegel
December 6, 2010 

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