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Take a Deeper Dive Into Why F.C. City is One of Top Suburbs

HAVING THE OPTION to buy an older home (foreground) with enough room to renovate it into a much larger house (background) was a major reason why Falls Church City was rated so high in RenoFi’s rankings. (Photo: News-Press)

Last week, readers of the News-Press learned that the City of Falls Church and its neighbor, Pimmit Hills, were the the second and third most livable suburbs in the U.S. But the firm which conducted the analysis explained why some of its results were a bit more unique than others that are done throughout the nation.

RenoFi is the Philadelphia-based company that performed the analysis and made its determinations according to eight key factors — median household income; household income growth; home prices; home price growth; property tax rate; crime rate; unemployment and clinician to patient ratios. The analysis was originally published in Realtor Magazine’s April edition.

After scanning more than 600 suburban areas in 50 major cities throughout the country, it landed on Falls Church and Pimmit Hills as the second and third most livable places (behind only Druid Hills outside of Atlanta, which is the neighborhood adjacent to Emory University).

Justin Goldman, the founder and CEO of RenoFi, told the News-Press that the analysis’ target demographic was young families who were looking to move into a home that they had the option to renovate.

That jibes with much of the landscape locally: there’s constant rebuilds and build-outs taking place in Falls Church, a trend that has done its part to elevate home values to an, at times, gaudy level in the Little City. Pimmit Hills is also a good representative of this trend, with the spacious neighborhood just inside the Capital Beltway being a prime target for turning some of the original one-story homes into two- or three-level abodes.

Catching these neighborhoods that are both established draws, such as Falls Church, and those that are still transitioning, such as Pimmit Hills, was a big focus for Goldman and his team.

“There’s so many people that have been looking and looking for their ideal suburb in their ideal town, and they’ve struggled to land the house they’ve wanted,” Goldman said. “And so there’s more people looking to an adjacent neighborhood, one with a bit more upside potential, where it’s easier to buy a house and people can put money into a renovation. That’s why there’s a healthy mix of affluent neighborhoods and real up-and-comers.”

Two metrics that were prioritized in RenoFi’s analysis were crime rate and patient-to-primary care physician ratio. Those two categories helped catapult some stealthy picks toward the top of the list.

Falls Church’s patient-to-physician ratio, which was rated as one of the top five nationwide in its analysis, was a major reason the City was able to land so high up the chart, according to Goldman.

Though Goldman cautioned by saying that the proximity of a doctor “isn’t necessarily what people are actively looking for’’ when it comes to making a homebuying decision. Instead, he continued, it’s just a general part of feeling secure that is overlooked when people assess a neighborhood and its perks.

“Putting a premium on your family’s safety long term is critical,” Goldman said, who added that after having so many conversations with customers over the years, it was a recurring theme that good medical care close by was more than just a nice thing to have.

“If being near a good health system matters as much to people as the safety of their kids, then we decided to give that a bit more weight in our analysis,” Goldman said.

Given its unique analysis, some of the usual suspects locally didn’t make RenoFi’s cut. There was no Arlington or Alexandria on the Virginia side, which surprised Nicholas Lagos, an associate broker Century 21 New Millennium, in last week’s story on the same topic. And on the Maryland side, there was no sight of Potomac, Bethesda or Kensington, which Business Insider had ranked in its own Top 25 suburbs list last fall (to be fair, Chevy Chase was tied for ninth on the RenoFi rankings).

That’s because, in Goldman’s view, RenoFi’s rankings didn’t consider anything but the data.

There was no potential for bias from brands or anything like that; it was 100 percent data driven approach,” Goldman said. “Maybe some of these other lists had some more editorial elements to it. I can’t say for sure, but I do believe ours was unique in that we strictly followed our data.”