This 2,340-square foot house on Donna Circle in Broyhill Crest is on the market for $442,900. It has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. [Zillow]
In an effort to sort through some of these issues, we’re running a two-part series presented in a question-and-answer format by Kate Fulling, a resident of the Columbia Pines neighborhood in Annandale and the editor of a blog documenting her home improvement projects.
Fulling posed her questions to realtor Vivianne Couts, a resident of Broyhill Crest who occasionally contributes real estate updates to the Annandale Blog. [It should be noted that the questions and responses specifically relate to single-family homes in Columbia Pines, Broyhill Crest, and Sleepy Hollow Woods.]
Kate Fulling: It appears that the real estate market in the 22003 zip code (Annandale) has softened a bit in the last six months. The number of sales per month and the price per square foot in the last six months of 2015 seem down from where they were in the first six months of last year. Do you agree with that assessment, and if so, why do you think that is?
Vivianne Couts: The real estate market did slow down in the fall of 2015. Usually it picks up right after Labor Day. This year, it didn’t pick up until October.
I think there was a bit of nervousness in the market. The federal government changed some of the rules that lenders had to follow, and interest rates were a concern for people, even though they’re hovering around 4 percent. The market was stronger than usual in November and December and continues to be good right now.
However, the declining stock market is going to hurt some investors who need to sell stocks to come up with a down payment on a house. On the other hand, many buyers have very little money in the market, so this won’t hurt them. Also, there is a correlation between the stock market and interest rates. A bad stock market means good interest rates.
This rebuilt and renovated house on Wayne Drive in Broyhill Crest is 3,100 square feet and has six bedrooms and four bathrooms. The asking price is $759,990. [Zillow]
VC: Pictures lie. Two houses can look exactly the same in pictures, but when you get inside you can see shoddy work, or bad taste, or the pictures don’t show what’s really going on. Also, seemingly small variations in house sizes make a huge difference.
In the original Broyhill Crest, there are three different-sized homes, 910, 1,040, and 1,170 square feet. Of course, there are other variations where people have put on additions or made other improvements. But the difference in size between a 1,040 and 1,170-square foot house makes a huge difference. The smaller house has a smaller kitchen, for example. So the 1,170 square foot house is priced higher.
Our neighborhoods are very hilly which can make a huge difference in house value. Most buyers would pay more for a flat backyard than one with a hill. Also not having a driveway detracts from a house’s value. There are some homes in Broyhill Crest and Columbia Pines that don’t have driveways, especially if they’re on a cul de sac. I recently sold one on Ridge Road that didn’t have one.
KF: What’s more important, size or number of bedrooms? For example, is a two-bedroom 1,300-square foot house worth more than a 1,100-square foot house with three bedrooms?
VC: Overall size is more important than number of bedrooms. It’s pretty easy to convert a two-bedroom house in this neighborhood to a three-bedroom house.
KF: Another topic that gets a lot of attention at neighborhood get-togethers is house flipping. Several homes that recently turned over had been bought by investors who made a few improvements then sold them for a quick profit.
How prevalent would you say flipping is in this area compared with Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, or other areas of Fairfax County? Is this trend on the upswing? And while a lot of flippers in Arlington and Bethesda tear down houses to build larger ones, most flippers here seem to be just interested in remodeling the existing home before re-selling it.
VC: This area seems to have an average number of flips compared to the region as a whole. In most cases it makes more sense to fix up a house rather than tear it down. The critical price point seems to be $390,000; it doesn’t make economic sense to tear down a house valued above that level.
In most cases our area doesn’t support tearing down, as the cost to build a house is the same whether it’s in McLean or Annandale. The difference is in the land. For more insights on the economics of house flipping and the thin margin for errors, see the Jan. 11 article in the Washington Post by Justin Pierce.
I don’t think we have seen more flips in the last year. I think people know if they want to get top dollar for their house it has to look good. Also, some houses that have been rentals for a while tend to be renovated before being put on the market. In other cases, the homeowner did the renovations prior to listing it.