Buying versus renting in Northern Virginia - Fairfax, Centreville, Manassas

Asked by Nova1sttimebuyer, Manassas, VA Sat Feb 9, 2008

I currently work and rent in Manassas. Even though I may move in 2-4 yrs., I am thinking about buying for the first time partly due to the market and partly to start gaining equity rather than paying rent I'll never see again. My range right now would probably be in the $200k to $250k range, though I'd consider higher for the right place (or lower for decent value, of course). I am not confined to Manassas, and may even prefer somewhere closer to DC (Centreville, Fair Oaks, etc.) as long as it's along 66. Condos are attractive for amenities (gym, pool, etc.), but I'm open to townhouse/small single fam. as well. Just seeking some general opinions regarding comparisons between these general areas and pertaining to my situation (not buying a permanent home, just somewhere to live for a few years and be able to re-sell at least close to original value). I realize condos are more volatile, but wouldn't they reach a greater market size regardless of value?

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Tom Floyd, , Salem, VA
Thu Mar 27, 2008
There are closing costs when you buy, there are closing costs when you sell. Unless your house goes up rapidly (highly doubtful), you will not acheive enough gains in 2-4 years to offset the closing costs. Rent is a good deal for short term.... Owning is a longer term venture, especially now that the market is down.
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Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Mon Mar 10, 2008
It's difficult to disagree with the advice below. With your relatively short time frame (2-4 years) and your limited funds, renting is certainly a safe, affordable option.

The difficulty is that (while I don't have a crystal ball) Manassas and most of Prince William County has been very hard hit by foreclosures. And that'll continue. So, while you can buy a townhouse or even a single family home right now in the Manassas area, prices are likely to decline some more, then remain flat for awhile. If you were planning on buying and holding for, say, 10 years, I'd advise differently. (My advice, then: Buy a nice home in a nice area and hold on; you likely will make a very nice profit.)

Moving closer in costs more. And if you're looking at condos, not only are they more volatile, but also the condo fees can be pretty hefty. You can get a lot of those same amenities by getting a membership at a place like Lifetime Fitness (locations in Fairfax and Centreville; I used to be a member) or Anytime Fitness ( -- full disclosure: someone I know someone who runs one.

Keep in mind, too, the transaction costs of selling. Assume roughly 10% of the sales price. So if you bought today for $250,000 and you sold in 2 years for "close to original value"--say $245,000, you might net about $220,500. That means you'd have to bring $29,500 to closing. Even if you put 10% down when buying, you'd have to bring $4,500 to closing, plus wave goodbye to your $25,000 downpayment. Those are just rough numbers, of course, but you get the picture.

Even the real estate investors I know are swinging to buy-and-hold in this market, especially in Prince William County. And renting will cost you about half as much per month as buying, in those areas, in this market.

Feel free to contact me for any additional information.
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Hi, , Virginia
Mon Mar 10, 2008
Rent is your best option. The Northern Virginia area is the most overpriced area in Virginia. You may ask, How do you know? Most of the foreclosures are in this area. Here is a link
choose Property Search, put in Virginia. These are properties, that didn't sell at foreclosure auction for Wells Fargo Bank, so now they are bank owned (REO real estate owned). There are many sites like this selling bank owned properties. google REO. Many banks also use realtors like REMAX, Long and Foster, etc. to dump their properties.
If I were you, I would save for a downpayment and rent for at least another year or two.
good luck
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FrankyRealty, , Arlington, VA
Thu Mar 6, 2008
Nah. Just rent. Don't think of it as throwing money out the window. Think of it as a free landlord subsidy since their mortgage is larger than rent usually.

2-4 years is not long enough, unless you are a gambling man.
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Tiny Varner, , McLean, VA
Wed Mar 5, 2008
Condos are generally more volatile, but can still be a good investment. But no matter what you buy, you can always rent it out for awhile after you move until values are where you'd like them and you're ready to sell. There's a lot of inventory on the market right now, so you'd have your pick of places and room to negotiate (in most cases).

Feel free to contact me and I'll be happy to help you.

Tiny Varner, Realtor
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