Around F.C.

Little City Real Estate Market In The Middle of ‘Perfect Storm’

One of the many houses that saw their accessed value skyrocket. (Photo: Sue Johnson)

If the huge jump in assessed real estate values reported in last week’s News-Press didn’t convince you, the eye popping evaluations of key area realtors should. Residential real estate, especially of the single family home variety, is exploding in value in this area right now. To call it a “seller’s market,” where sellers are likely to get more than they’re asking, is putting it too mildly.

In fact, in the words of one such local realtor, it is only if one puts together two popular superlatives that a correct image of how things are now emerges. It is not only a “perfect storm” for sellers, but the City of Falls Church is the “eye of the storm,” as Falls Church realtor Albert Bitici put it in an interview this week.
“The eye of the perfect storm” is not likely to replace “The Little City” as the official slogan for Falls Church right now, but it does reflect this moment in its history.

Bitici told the News-Press this period is “unlike anything I’ve ever seen” in his many years in the business.

The current period “is far outpacing any recent years” in terms of the boom. The “tight inventory market” is matched with an almost panicky rush to buy anything that looks good, causing 20 to 30 offers to be made on the great undersupply for high quality homes on the market in the City.

In fact, according to realtor Ken Trotter, there are only six single family homes up for sale in Falls Church right now, and only 35 in the wider Greater Falls Church area.

What was a three-to-six month inventory of homes on the market has shrunk to less than one month now. “This is not only a seller’s market, it is an historic market” that has unleashed a lot of bidding wars, he told the News-Press this week.

Of course, Falls Church residential real estate has always been premium for families that need room to raise little ones, if only for the world quality of the City’s independent public school system, which now offers International Baccalaureate curricula from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Realtors have often commented on this over the years, that the value of a home in Falls Church enjoys a 15 percent or higher “value added” because of the quality of the schools.

One of the many high end properties you can find in the Little City. (Photo: Sue Johnson)

But now it is not only for that, and for the completion of a state-of-the-art new $120 million high school facility that was completed just in the last year, but it is also for the demonstrable quality of life features of Falls Church that continues to bring remarkable new features to the City’s parks, neighborhoods, and commercial zones in a way that is actually causing residential real estate tax rates to go down considerably (which is being promised with a new fiscal year budget this spring to offset a double-digit explosion in real estate valuations).

But the other factors more unique to this time period involve the impact of the two-year Covid-19 pandemic hiatus which, as Bitici explains, has caused major lifestyle changes, many of which appear to be persisting. They include the desire to avoid lengthy commutes, if not to augment the ability to work from home, and the collateral desire for having “living in spaces,” rather than homes being seen as only places for raising kids or sleeping on weekends.

In this way, Falls Church emphasis on the quality of its neighborhoods, with programs to make them more “walkable” and the to include an introduction of “traffic calming” measures, and more, creates a desirable extension of the single family home.

Then there is the other clinching factor, which is the current movement toward rising interest rates that is adding enormously to the anxiety associated with finding the right home right now.

“Rising interest rates are adding great pressure to make a buy right now from those who don’t want to miss out on this trend,” Bitici said.

Another prominent local realtor echoed the same themes. Alison Miller, told the News-Press that “available housing inventory on the market in Northern Virginia is extremely tight right now.”

She cited the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR) market statistics publication that shows that in February 2022, Fairfax and Falls Church have only a single month (or .3 months) of housing supply on the market while neighboring Arlington has closer to three months (or .7 months). “It means,” she said, that “if suddenly no more houses went on the market, all available supply would be absorbed in that amount of time.”

But she stressed that “buyers should not be discouraged,” adding “it is possible to buy in this market with patience and an experienced agent,” adding that condos and townhouses are also “a little less competitive to buy than single family homes right now.”