Labor Day weekend is much anticipated because it marks the start of a new school year and all the excitement and new things associated with it. But it’s more than just teachers, students and parents who are looking forward to this week. It’s also home sellers, buyers and real estate agents.
The fall is the second-busiest time of the year for home sales, our local agents agree, and given how slow the summer months have been, they can’t wait for their phones to start ringing now that Labor Day begins the fall season.
“I had absolutely nothing over the summer. It was excruciatingly horrible,” said real estate agent Stacy Hennessey. But not to worry, going into the fall she already has four new listings and three new buyers lined up.
Agent Tori McKinney of Keller Williams agrees, although the summer for her was not so bad, except for August. June and July were “insanely productive” for her, but with “ridiculously low” interest rates holding, she says she is “feeling confident” about the coming months.
McKinney, winner of this year’s Best of Falls Church competition for Best Real Estate Agent, bubbles with optimism and makes it super-clear that it predominantly is the quality and reputation of the Falls Church School System that drives people to move here.
“The flagship product in Falls Church is its schools,” she exclaimed, followed by its proximity to D.C. and the two nearby Metro stations.
Falls Church agent Kim Maller concurs. She experienced a very busy spring and a very slow summer, but she expects business to pick up a lot in the fall.
She said that another factor impacting buying and selling of homes is the new development going on now in Falls Church, where there are presently two huge, gaping holes within blocks of each other where large scale mixed use projects, each anchored by a major grocery store, are going in. Then there is a third that is still awaiting approval at the West Broad and North West intersection.
“People close to these projects hate the inconvenience, and the increased traffic they expect will be coming. But when they think about it a little, about the idea a Harris Teeter with a little cafe or a Fresh Market will be in easy walking distance of their homes, they start to think, ‘How cool is that?’” she said.
On top of that, there is little doubt that home values of residences closest to the new stores will rise as a result.
She said that a number of the so-called “McMansion” homes built to barely fit on substandard lots in the City are selling, going for $1.3 or $1.4 million. Many of those new homes were put under construction ahead of the August 1 deadline on the division of residential properties that sit on two historically substandard lots.
“At the bus stop on the corner where I live, as a result of the sale of these large homes, there has been a 150 percent increase in the number of people waiting there,” she said.
But McKinney says it is the homes in the price range of $700,000 to $850,000 that are the “most highly desirable” in the City, and there is “almost no inventory left” for those. “We simply don’t have the inventory to support the demand,” she said, and it’s all driven by the perceived desirability of the schools.
Hennessey agrees, saying that it’s the inventory priced below $800,000 that sells the fastest, and schools are the driver.
“It’s not even close” in terms of other factors entering into decisions to move to the City of Falls Church. Hennessey, a long-time community activist in Falls Church (from before the time she owned “Stacy’s” coffee shop) said that she is considering donating $500 from every sale to the Falls Church Education Foundation to acknowledge the importance of the schools to her success in the realty business. She said others should consider that, too.
“Like minded people move here for the schools,” she said, even though the numbers year over year show the rate of sales has slowed this year compared to one year ago.
But last month Maller mailed out a list of recent sales in the 22046 zip code and of 26 listings included, 16 of them sold in 18 days or less (including seven in less than a week) of being put on the market.
In many of these cases, she said, how fast a home sells depends on how ready it is for a move-in. Busy professionals coming here to buy don’t want to have to be bothered with making a lot of their own improvements when they buy. They’ll jump onto and pay more if everything is ready to go.