Around F.C.

The Agent’s Take: F.C. Real Estate Agents on the Area Housing Market

Falls Church area real estate agents give their views and opinions on the local real estate market.

Suzanne Fauber, Buck & Associates, Inc.

The old saying “People in Washington have more money than time” easily described Washingtonians’ spending habits during the heyday of a booming housing market. As prices at the pump continue to squeeze consumers’ wallets, however, buyers in the Falls Church real estate market are looking to cut their commuting distances to work.

Realtor Suzanne Fauber said the business of selling property in the City of Falls Church has remained steady throughout the current economic downturn.

“I think Falls Church has a divine location. I think its location is going to win out in the end because now that [consumers’ monies are] being taken away from them with gas, they don’t have enough time or money, so commuting distance and the cost of gasoline makes Falls Church even a more divine location,” Fauber said.

Fauber said buyers in the area have an advantage because of the two Metro stations serving the Falls Church community.

“The only wild card that has been changed over the years has been the introduction of Metro and where we have created new employment centers, because people want to live near those employment centers,” she said.

“The areas that are hurting are the ones that don’t have enough employment to sustain their residential base.”

Julie Pearson, McEnearney Associates

An advocate for buying property versus renting, Julie Pearson assures prospective sellers and buyers that the real estate market is not all gloom and doom. Though properties are selling with lower interest rates, rates will likely increase as the economy stabilizes.

“Buyers are out there and they are purchasing. Our area is selling for sure. There is a possibility that interest rates will go up, so this really is a good time for buyers to get in the market,” Pearson said.

Pearson said active real estate is neighborhood specific and varies city to city.

“I think real estate is profitable. There are always cyclical cycles that we go through.”

With three consecutive months of increasing contract activity, Falls Church continues to show encouraging signs amid a nationwide economic slump.

“I do think the prices might decline a little bit more in Northern Virginia until it bottoms out and then hopefully early next year, we finally will be back to normal.”

Rosemary Hayes Jones, Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.

Once Rosemary Hayes Jones realized the role realtors play in assessing the features and values of homes, she knew her next career move would lead her to real estate.

Jones works personally with home buyers in Falls Church and the immediate surrounding areas in search of properties, despite today’s shaky housing market, which has been affected by increasing foreclosures.

“Closer-in communities like Falls Church, Arlington and Alexandria are not experiencing the kind of downturn we’re seeing farther out, but there’s definitely been a slow down. Buyers are hesitant and are tending to hold back because of the economic uncertainties,” Jones said.

Buyer resistance has not troubled the real estate market in Falls Church to a great degree, due to its proximity to Washington, D.C., and since properties are selling for affordable prices, she said.

“The market’s not bad at all, particularly in the lower price ranges in the closer-in communities. There are plenty of buyers looking to buy but they’re being very cautious and in some cases renting rather than buying because of their concern for the economy.”

“The real estate market in our area, close-in, is good. Could it be better? Of course, but we’re not Las Vegas, by any means.”

Leslie Hutchison, ReMax

When Leslie Hutchison first became a real estate agent in 1986, she knew the City of Falls Church would be the ideal place in the coming years, for those looking for a small-town feel with all the features of a big city.

“We’re kind of in a cocoon in this area because our schools are so strong, we’re inside the Beltway, we’re right in between two Metros and we have a lot of features that people here want,” said Hutchison, who said her best year as a realtor was in 2007.

“Inside the Beltway is the only area that is doing very well, especially with the gas prices going up. I’ve heard from a lot of people that are trying desperately to sell their homes out in Reston, Herndon, Manassas and Centreville just to come inside the Beltway because the gas prices are so crazy.”

Hutchison said prices have declined after the housing boom three years ago.

“We’ve seen the prices stabilize and a lot of people think that with the election year, we’re going to flip from a buyers’ market that it is now to a more normal sellers’ market. It’s going to be a lot more demand after the election and not enough inventory to take care of all the people that will be looking to buy.”

Merelyn Kaye, McEnearney Associates

For Merelyn Kaye, there are three criteria in order for a property to sell.

“In Falls Church, if houses look good, show well and are priced right, they’re going to sell,” Kaye said.

The vitality of Falls Church as a close-in suburban city allows for the area’s real estate market to remain healthy.

“Anything close-in that has good schools is always considered a better place to live as far as convenience goes. With today’s gas prices, more people are buying in close because it takes a lot of gas to get out to Loudoun County. The more remote places tend to suffer more than the close-in places, no matter what happens.”

Kaye admits the market has been affected by the conditions of current economic turmoil but that has not stalled real estate sales in Vienna, McLean, Arlington and Falls Church.

“We have three contracts on a property and it’s been a long time since we’ve had multiple contracts.”

“People have to do more to their houses-paint more, install new carpeting, anything to make their houses look really great so they’ll look better than the others on the market, and enhance their chances of selling.”

Kathy Szymanski, Fairfax Realty

The challenges the real estate business offers attracted the attention of Kathy Szymanski 20 years ago, when she became a licensed realtor.

“I have been very busy over the past two years despite the market’s decline. Business for me has remained healthy,” said Szymanski, who deals with both sellers and buyers seeking properties at various price ranges.

Szymanski finds Northern Virginia to be a profitable area for real estate.

“There are many more foreclosures in Prince William County and Loudoun County than there are in the inner suburbs. The price-sensitive customers are going to find the lowest values in Prince William and Loudoun counties.”

In fact, of all the foreclosures in the greater metropolitan area, only 0.1 percent of them were in Falls Church, Szymanski said.

“Falls Church city has typically not been a first-time home buyers market, so people who come and buy here have sold a house elsewhere in the majority of cases. So they come with a down payment and that down payment makes their loan a stronger loan and makes it less likely to foreclose.”

JD Callander, Weichert Realtors

JD Callander knows searching for the perfect home is not easy, which is what led her to become a real estate agent.

“One of the principle details in purchasing property is the location of the property and in the end location will always help with resale. Falls Church is close in.

We’re near the Metro and the community is desirable and because of those factors the market in my opinion has not been hit very hard, especially compared to other regions,” Callander said.

Callander, who sells property primarily in Falls Church, said real estate in the city has remained strong compared to areas outside the Beltway.

“We have not seen the dramatic impact from the economy in the Falls Church area; it just hasn’t been here. Property is still selling.”

“You need a couple of things to make [real estate] work. [Property] needs to be in good condition, priced properly, and it needs to have the location factor. When those things line up, we’re certainly not seeing difficulties in Falls Church City.”