2024-06-13 7:52 AM

Falls Church Apartments Few and Far Between

Anyone who’s looking to make a move soon in Falls Church knows that it’s not only homes which are in short supply here, but the inventory of apartments is low, too. 

An online search for apartments found few available. Prices for some exceed large mortgage payments.

Apartments range from $1,515 to $2,953 for a one bedroom, and $1,750 to $6,704  for a two bedroom.

Modera Founder’s Row on West Broad has the highest price for a one bedroom, while the West Broad at the Harris Teeter building claims top prize for the priciest two bedrooms. 

800 West Broad (pictured above), also known as the “flower building” is the home of Sfizi’s restaurant and Young’s offices. (Photo: The Young Group)

The less expensive units are found at Glen Apartments near West Street and Route 29 for the one bedroom, and at Roosevelt Towers on North Roosevelt for two bedrooms.

None of the high end apartments include utilities like what’s found at some lower-priced units, but pricier places offer amenities like a dog run, a pet spa, pet wash station, a pet park, complimentary moving assistance, a library lounge, fire pits in outdoor areas with TVs, and an upper deck for watching parades and fireworks.

Robert A. Young is the president of the Young Group which has 150,000 to 200,000 square feet of residential and commercial properties in Falls Church which are all leased up.

“We have no vacancy of any kind,” he said in a phone interview. 

“It’s never happened in my 20 plus years I’ve owned property.”  Typically, an occupancy of 92 to 93 percent for commercial properties is considered “excellent by industry standards,” he said.

From a landlord’s perspective, apartments in Falls Church are in “very, very good shape.” His rent increases for them have been below inflation, at only two to three percent, but “we’ve just done an assessment and found we’re pretty far behind the market,” so his tenants may find a five percent adjustment coming this year. 

With a different perspective, Edward P. Novak, Jr., an area real estate developer and president and founder of Nova Ventures, says the market has settled down from its covid highs.  

There’s been “a fairly significant slowdown” since the peak of last summer. “It’s not dramatic, but rents were raised by a significant amount” to cover labor and construction costs, and soaring inflation and interest rates.

The Read building at 402 W. Broad Street is the home of apartments and was just approved for the extension of affordable apartments for teachers and support staff. (Photo: The Young Group)

Now, some commercial developers are having a hard time finding money to build. 

“Demand has dropped a bit to a more normal level.”

The National Apartment Association says renters are pausing on making moves and have begun to combine households to save money.  Vacancy rates nationally are projected to increase through 2024 and records show rental prices dropped September through November, 2022, although Zillow, a national real estate marketer, says rents were 8.4 percent higher than a year ago.

On Monday the Wall Street Journal quoted national rental increases of 17.6 percent for 2021 and 3.8 percent last year.

The city’s website has a public document which lists 2021 apartment rents. Comparing those figures with 2023 for nine buildings with prices found online, average rental increases of 23.5 percent for one bedroom and 19 percent for two bedrooms are found for the two years. In all cases, the lowest prices were used for comparisons.

Mia Barnes is the property manager at Merrill House Apartments on East Fairfax Street who says everything there is leased up.  Rental pricing usually increases about three to five percent a year, she said. Figures from the city’s 2021 list show Merrill House was leasing a one bedroom starting at $1,409 and $1,749 for two bedrooms.

Falls Green Apartments on Roosevelt Boulevard has a current vacancy rate of about six percent, Nicole Herrera at the management office said. The owners “and the market” determine rent increases which she did not know for 2023.  A two-bedroom now starts at $2,352 at Falls Green when it  was going for $2,045 in 2021, an increase of 15 percent.

Two of Young’s favorite buildings are mixes of residential and commercial uses, the “flower building,” as he calls 800 West Broad and the Read Building, the red brick at 402 West Broad where there’s a branch of PNC Bank. 

For the Read, the Falls Church City Council has just approved the extension of restrictive covenants, making some apartments more affordable for teachers and support staff.

These apartments will be reserved at lower rates for those earning between 60 to 80 percent of the area median income through the end of 2032. (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines the area median income as up to $63,000 for one person.)

Many tenants are sitting tight, waiting for the growing number of layoffs to end, inflation to slow, and units to open up as the market turns more in their favor. Their days seem to be coming.

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