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Friday, February 5, 2016

Real estate insights: Part 2

This 3,200-square foot house on Ridge Road in Columbia Pines is on the market for $625,000. It has four bedrooms and three bathrooms. [Zillow'
This is the second of a two-part series on the local real estate market, focusing on the single-family neighborhoods of Broyhill Crest, Columbia Pines, and Sleepy Hollow Woods. Part 1 was published Feb. 4. Columbia Pines resident Kate Fulling asks the questions, and realtor Vivianne Couts, a resident of Broyhill Crest who occasionally contributes real estate updates to the Annandale Blog, provides the answers.

Kate Fulling: How much renovating should a homeowner do before trying to sell? It seems that most homes in our area that are not flips are not in the best condition when sold. Online photos of homes for sale include lots of kitchens and bathrooms that are more than 20 years old, floors in bad condition, and aging roofs, windows, and appliances. The only homes in “move-in” condition tend to be the flips, which seem to sell for roughly $100,000 more than their less-updated counterparts.

Vivianne Couts: Buyers want move-in ready houses and will pay a premium for them. That’s because most buyers don’t have the cash to renovate a house as soon as they buy it.

In most cases, the best improvements a homeowner can do before listing a house are a good coat of paint and updated floors. Replacing the roof on a house won’t add more value than the cost of the work. For example, I just spent $9,000 to put a new roof on my house. It will never need to be replaced, but I bet it won’t add more than $5,000 to the sales price.

It’s the same thing with a new HVAC system. A seller would do better to just offer a home warranty and say if the HVAC breaks, then the warranty will replace it (famous last words). A house should be perfect looking before going on the market, though. Don’t think, “I’ll put it up for sale now and make updates as time goes on.”   

KF: Our neighbor got a quote of $30,000 for a new roof. How were you able to get one for $9,000?

VC:. It’s like buying a car. They throw out a dumb number, and if you bite, they’re happy. We used Remodel USA. I have no clue if I got a good deal. I was just ready to be done with it and move on.

KF: What advice would you give people who aren’t interested in selling right away but want to start making improvements for themselves as well as potential future buyers? It’s hard to know where to invest one’s money. Is updating the kitchen and bathrooms still solid advice, or is that outdated thinking?

VC: If you’re not planning to sell any time soon, update it as you like. When I first started in real estate, I thought granite and stainless steel would go out of style. Ten years later they’re still going strong. The bathrooms and kitchen are what sell the house. Don’t bother redoing the floors now – unless you want them to look good for you – as they’ll be destroyed by the time you want to move. People want shiny floors.

A 2,408-square foot colonial on Rodes Court in Broyhill Crest with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The asking price is $575,000. [Zillow]
KF: Do you think that there is such a thing as a typical buyer in this area? On our street, we’re seeing young couples and first-time homebuyers moving in who have been priced out of Arlington and Alexandria and value Annandale’s proximity to D.C., its location in Fairfax County, and relative value for the money. Who should a potential seller in this area be targeting?

VC: I think our neighborhood appeals to a wide variety of people. The location is fabulous, the schools are great, the houses are solid, and there are lots of parks. [See my “Top 10” list for Broyhill Crest at the end of this post put together with input from residents through the Nextdoor network.]

As a realtor, I cast as wide a net as possible, rather than targeting certain groups. You never know who your next buyer is going to be, and you don't want to miss them. So I market all my properties on over 725 websites, as well as on Military By Owner, and send postcards to a database of potential buyers and to everyone who lives in Broyhill Crest.

My most recent buyers in Broyhill Crest have been all over the place, including a couple in their mid-40s, a retired couple, a single person, a couple in their mid-30s, and a couple with a kid. I don’t see the young social crowd moving in (the ones who want to go out drinking in D.C.), but you never know. If they want to buy here, I am happy to sell to them.

Top 10 reasons Broyhill Crest is a great place to live

(1) The houses are brick so they hold up well, and the lots have mature trees and are generously sized.
(2) The residents care about their property—and their neighbors.
(3) There is a wonderful sense of community identity and spirit.
(4) Although close to the action in the nation’s capital, you can hear the birds in the morning and see deer, foxes, possums, and other wildlife. You’d never guess you were just 13 miles from downtown D.C.
(5) The narrow streets and lots of sidewalks make it feel like a real “neighborhood,” not just another development like in much of Northern Virginia.
(6) There are many parks in the neighborhood with nature trails, picnic areas, tennis courts, and more.
(7) From Memorial Day to Labor Day, enjoy the Broyhill Crest Recreation Club, with a beautiful, shaded pool, volleyball, basketball, ping pong, children’s sandbox, baby pool, and playground.
(8) A new school, Mason Crest Elementary, is within walking distance.
(9) The active Broyhill Crest Community Association provides a complimentary monthly e-newsletter and community directory for residents and hosts free events like the 4th of July picnic at the pool, Santa visits, and Easter egg hunt.
(10) Location, location, location! Broyhill Crest is inside the beltway with convenient access to the beltway, Routes 50, 66, 7, I-395, and I-95. It’s a short commute to D.C. and it’s close to world-class hospitals, shopping at Tysons Corner, well-known and popular restaurants, museums, entertainment, and public transportation.


  1. I agree on the roof comment. We have a pretty standard roof. The first guy wanted 20k.
    We eventually got it done for 5k with nice upgraded shingles.

  2. Columbia Pines resident Kate Fulling and realtor Vivianne Couts of Broyhill Crest have collaborated with important, insightful info.
    we each need to find ways to promote Mason District as a great place to live from raising a family to aging in place (no downsizing required). And that means we must bulldoze the blight!

  3. Most buyers are not aware of the Mason Crest Elementary School (an amazing school) as the real estate websites don't have this information updated on their listings yet... Most sites still incorrectly list the old schools instead. The fcps website has the correct schools per address (boundary information). That was a very nice surprise that we found out after we moved.

    1. Realtors are able to enter this information themselves, over-riding the auto population.

  4. I have to add to #7 the outstanding Barracuda's & Bubble Swim Team. Coach Matt, Maddie & Emma along with all of their helpers. This is an amazing group of coaches that get along very well and bring their beautiful spirit to the kids. I also have to add to #7 the pool spirit is very family oriented and laid back.

  5. Very interesting reading. Thank you for sharing the information on single-family neighborhoods in 22003.
    Will you be reporting on other single-family neighborhoods in 22003?
    What about neighborhoods that are a combination of single-family homes and McMansions (that are possible boarding houses).
    Thanks again for this informative report.

    1. Name a specific neighborhood, and I am happy to provide the info.

    2. Valleybrook, Belvedere, Parklawn and Dowden Terrace are other established neighborhoods with infill construction.

  6. Would love to see a write up of Ravensworth Grove area, Braddock ES and Annandale HS in particular. I don't think real estate agents are allowed to mention the county owned section 8 housing of Wedgwood. AHS is decent but our home values are very slow to rise.