Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: The Glass is at Least Half Full in Falls Church

I have always believed that the fate of our Real Estate values lies with the state of our schools, but this is true now more than ever.  In spite of economic and fiscal distress affecting families, businesses and governments at every level, home prices are staying steady in Falls Church and are actually up 9.06% over last year.

How can this be happening in the midst of all of the doom and gloom pervading our local and national media?  I would venture to say that some things haven’t changed, such as parents wanting to live in a school district that might be best to enable their children to create happy lives and to compete in the 21st century global economy.  Parents are looking for a quality school district that has had a long reputation for challenging all students, one that ranks highly with the national challenge indexes, and one that meets its yearly progress benchmarks.

As a Realtor in Northern Virginia, I have the opportunity to interact with many other Realtors and customers every day.  When Falls Church is mentioned, people always say the same thing, “oh, I know about the school district, it’s great.”  I fear some day when I mention Falls Church, someone might say, “oh, Falls Church, they used to have great schools.”  Don’t get me wrong, I think the Arlington and Fairfax schools are great too!  Most people I work with in Arlington talk as if Falls Church was way out in the Hinterland.  Way out west in the Rest of Virginia (ROVA).  I used to correct them, but for now I just let it go and feel lucky to have discovered this little City and all its greatness.  The City of Falls Church’s brand is alive and well, but bound inextricably with the health of our schools.  A simple case of supply and demand, you might say need to the ongoing and current problem in the city that there aren’t enough houses for sale.  The same is true of the rental market in Falls Church.  A lot of things have changed in the last few years, but our real estate market is as tight as ever.  When priced right, a good property will often have multiple contracts with only minor contingencies.  If you would like to learn more about the local real estate market, I am hosting a buyer/seller seminar at the Community Center in two weeks.

Falls Church has a lot going for it.  It has a genuine community feel, diverse and excellent restaurants, historic places, a vibrant arts community, walkable spaces and places where you can eat, shop, and do errands on foot or bicycle, even live without a car if you choose.  We have the State Theater and Bowl America which bring in a lot of folks from outside of Falls Church, as well as a nationally-known Farmers market and many festivals that showcase our community.  Falls Church enjoys the “location, location, location” geography of being minutes from D.C., Arlington, Alexandria, and Tyson’s Corner and all they has to offer while being accessible to two metro stops, 66, and 495.

Falls Churchians are very well educated and very engaged in civic affairs, and unlike our larger neighbors even a single citizen’s voice can be heard, and a neighborhood can be a powerful movement.  Citizens enjoy  a very active local media, including traditional print as well as online and traditional social networking.

Our business community is second to none and enjoys a unique, symbiotic relationship with our public schools.  The Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and local businesses have been champions for the schools and the City.  To be sure we face challenges, but there is a broad consensus that we need to attract and retain additional commercial development to broaden our tax base and to bring additional economic vibrancy to our community.  In addition, our neighborhoods are an essential component of what makes this a great place to live, and we need to continue the process of updating and modernizing our zoning ordinance.  Our City should remain a model for what is possible when all groups work together over decades to accomplish shared goals.  If we can just resist the temptation to overreact to what is a short-term, global and national phenomenon and stay true to our values as a community then we will come through with our schools and our home values largely intact.

Let’s all take a deep breath and come up with some ideas on how to get the economic engine started in Falls Church so the residents won’t be burdened by increasingly high taxes.  Maintaining our independent status is important for the schools and for the unique qualities about Falls Church we cherish.


Kim Maller is a resident of the City of Falls Church and a Realtor at Keller William Realty.