I am a first time home buyer with excellent credit looking to buy a $300K 3 bd/2 ba FFX county home in Spring

Asked by Eric, Vienna, VA Wed Dec 12, 2007

2008. I plan to stay in the area at least 5 years, and want something with good resale value close to DC and/or public transportation lines. What would hold their value better, homes in Herndon vs. Centreville, townhome vs. single family, 25 year old townhome near the Vienna metro or a 10 yr old townhome in Centreville? How can I compare the variety of choices to each other?

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Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Wed Dec 12, 2007
Congratulations on your purchase plans. Here are a few quick reactions to some of your questions.

If you're looking for something "close to DC and/or public transportation lines," and/or if you think that these factors will contribute to a good resale value (and I personally agree that proximity to DC and public transportation will help resale values), then I'd personally look closer in than Herndon, and maybe even Centreville. Top choice by far, with those criteria, would be a townhome near the Vienna Metro. That's closer in, it's close to Metro, and it's also very close to I-66, as well as Route 50.

Broadly speaking, a single family home might hold value better than a townhome, though that really depends on location, condition, and other factors. Stay away from condos (technically, "condo" is a legal term, and townhouses can be condos, but I'm referring to glorified apartments).

You'll find more affordable property the farther out you go, but that's both a factor of general distance and a reflection of greater price declines for some of the farther out properties. Still, I'd look closer in.

Your time frame of 5 years historically is pretty good. However, I'm not sure that we'll be completely out of the real estate turmoil in 5 years. There are another couple of years of foreclosures on the horizon (despite Bush's proposal). Real estate is cyclical in any case, but the investors I know are looking more at a 7 year time line in this area (and a 10 year time line in harder-hit areas, like California). Don't get me wrong: this is a great time to buy. But you want to buy where prices are, and will remain, pretty firm...not where they may go down another 15-30% or more.

One other thought along those lines: although right now you're weighing fairly new (10 year old) townhomes verus somewhat older (25 year old) townhomes, that disparity/gap will narrow an awful lot even in 5 years...and narrow further in 7 or 10. Right now, the old townhome is 2.5 times as old as the new one. In 10 years, they'll be 20 and 35 years old, respectively, a much smaller relative gap. So, don't worry too much about age.

Also, go to a good mortgage broker right now and find out what you can afford. It doesn't mean you have to spend that much (if, for instance, he/she says you can afford well over your $300,000 budget), but you need to know.

Your final question: How can you compare the variety of choices to each other? One way is to conduct a very narrow search in a couple of the different zip codes you're considering. For example, find out just what $300,000 will buy. Search by zip code, 3 (or more bedrooms), 2 (or more) baths, both single family homes and townhouses, in a narrow price range--say $295,000-$315,000. That'll give you an idea of what's available at those prices in those areas. That'll be your initial basis of comparison.

Take those results, factor in input from the mortgage broker, look at resale patterns in those respective neighborhoods (a Realtor can provide that information easily), check out the neighborhoods to see if any call out to you, and develop your strategy from that.

I'm a Realtor (as well as a real estate investor), and have lived in Northern Virginia for decades. Please feel free to contact me if you need any further help or information.

Don Tepper
Solutions 3D LLC
Realtor with Long& Foster
2 votes
Jeff Royce, Agent, Fairfax, VA
Wed Dec 12, 2007
Eric...I can give you my opinion on your questions, but I don't think there is a huge difference between the types of homes you are thinking about in general, though that would change when evaluating specific homes. I would look to purchase a home that meets your needs first, while considering how it might meet the needs of potential buyers down the road. That said, here's what i think of your options in terms of resale value:

I would choose Herndon over Centreville because of the tremendous job growth in the Dulles Corridor. More jobs means higher values for homes close to those jobs. Generally I would choose single family over townhomes because normally (but not always) appreciate better. Between Vienna and Centreville....you need to evaluate the individual houses, but in general you will do better in Vienna because of its proximity to so many jobs.

Another factor to be aware of is the quality of the construction. You don't want to be in a neighborhood that looks to be deteriorating when you go to sell. Make sure the home you purchase is solidly built.
1 vote
Danilo Bogda…, Agent, Reston, VA
Wed Dec 12, 2007
Eric - Herndon will be a faster commute towards DC than Centreville, by far.

As far as resale value, it all depends on the overall market conditions of each city, the location and specific subdivision within each city.

Town homes and single family homes are about equal in percentage of appreciation/depreciation, but condos are very volatile.

In order to compare your options, it would be best to look over available listings that fit your general criteria, compare commuting times and the prices/what you get for your money.

If you would like information about those areas and/or a list of properties to compare or preview, please let me know. I am a Buyer's Agent that grew up in Fairfax County and know the area well. I spend a lot of my free time in Fairfax County as well and know about transportation, commuting times, ammenities, etc.
1 vote
Eric, Home Buyer, Vienna, VA
Mon Nov 30, 2009
Udaya - We bought a very nice townhouse in Centreville (3bd/2.5ba, close to 2000 sq ft) for $325K back in early 2008 and have been very happy with it and with Centreville in general. Centreville has good schools, plenty of restaurants, parks, movie theater, etc. I haven't kept up with the market since then and it's been almost 2 years since I first posted this on Trulia! Herndon really didn't seem to fit our family and commuting needs as well as Centreville did. While Vienna would have been ideal, it wasn't and probably still isn't within our range of affordability. Good luck on your search. - Eric
0 votes
Udaya, Home Buyer, Herndon, VA
Mon Nov 30, 2009
Hi Eric,

Did you find anything in that range.

I just recently started to look for something similar between 350, 000 and 400,000.

I do not know much about present market condition.

Please share nay useful info on this.

Udaya Allu
Herndon, VA
0 votes
Leslie Neiss, Agent, Fairfax, VA
Fri Oct 9, 2009
Eric, having lived in Fairfax County since 1965 and Centreville since the late 1980s, I've seen firsthand the incredible growth in Northern Virginia. One of the good things is that the DC Metro area has, over the years, fared better than many other parts of the country both in employment and home values, and that includes all kinds of homes. I would be surprised if you could find something in the $300K price range with 3bd/2ba anywhere near the metro, but if you do grab it! Initially, to be able to afford to buy at all, I had to move out to the suburbs. I think you will find that by just moving a bit farther west, you will locate the home you are looking for. While you won't be walking to the Vienna metro, there are now plenty of park & rides (you can even walk to those lots) where you will then have a 15-minute ride to the Vienna metro and be dropped off at the entrance. Even from the most western side of Centreville, it’s a 30-minute max commuter bus ride straight down Route 66. I empathize with your dilemma and I wish you luck in your search.

Leslie Neiss, CDPE
Realtor with Keller Williams Realty
8521 Leesburg Pike, Vienna VA 22182
0 votes
Eric, Home Buyer, Vienna, VA
Wed Dec 12, 2007
Thanks for the great responses! Don, thanks for pointing out the relative home age gap reduction over time...I didn't think of that until now. Jeff and Danilo, thanks for the input on Herndon. I'm not familiar with Herndon yet so I appreciate your insight on the area.

I currently live within a 4-minute walk to the Vienna metro, and really love this area, but the townhouse (22181 zipcode) we are renting is currently valued at over $450K, and I doubt home values in my current neighborhood wil drop within our budget. There are some older townhomes nearby in the Covington and Circle Woods neighborhoods, but they are not the type of neighborhoods that my family is accustomed to. I'd love to stay within walking distance to the Vienna metro, but also want to get a good value. Also, I'm unsure how the MetroWest development will impact the area when/if it ever gets built. Currently, there is no construction at all there...just spooky, empty woods. I've looked at the new Avera Station condos, but I think they are too small for my family needs.

There seems to be some general assumptions that could be made about location, home age, construction quality, property type, etc., but I guess it's up to me to weigh each property, compare them, and decide which factors are most important. Anyway, I still have a lot of homework to do on this, and appreciate your responses.
0 votes
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