Ask An Agent: What Are the Most Important Metrics When Buying A Home?

by Mark Wellborn


In this week’s installment of Ask An Agent, a reader inquires about what the best metrics are to keep in mind when buying a new home. McEnearney Associates’ Leslie Wilder offers up some insight.

Question: When looking to buy a new home, what are the most important metrics to keep in mind when thinking about a property’s long-term investment potential? Obviously location is high on that list, but where should I rank things like price per square foot, amenities, type of property (condo or single-family home)?

Answer: Location is always a key factor when buying a home. If you’re looking to buy a condo downtown, then easy access to public transportation is important and if being close to public transportation is not a personal requirement, then being near major roads is an important consideration. For a long-term investment, a condo near public transportation will have an easier time holding its value.

When it comes to amenities, it’s nice to have a building with a gym, pool and concierge/front desk, but you’re going to pay for it in your condo fee. If these are things that you’ll use and enjoy, then go for it. If not, then I wouldn’t be too worried, especially if you’re in a desirable location. There will always be buyers who will choose location over amenities, and will appreciate lower condo fees.

While price per square foot is a useful tool to help determine whether a property is priced competitively, it also is a reflection of what buyers are willing to pay more for. Here’s a comparison for a buyer can afford to spend about $625,000. In Arlington, within a few blocks of the Metro, restaurants and retail, you will spend about that much to get a 1,300-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bath condo (built in 1992) with parking, in a building with an on-site gym, outdoor pool and front desk.

By going just three to four miles out toward Falls Church City, you can spend about $450,000 and get a two-bedroom, 2.5-bath condo with the same square footage in newer construction (2004) that has parking, higher-end finishes, and granite kitchen and baths. The building has a gym and front desk (no pool) and the location is blocks to a variety of retail and restaurants, and about a mile from two Metro stations and a few major roads.

Overall, the Arlington condo will hold its value better because of its location. However, for someone who doesn’t need daily access to the Metro and wants newer construction, the condo in Falls Church City would still be a good investment because of its proximity to nearby retail/restaurants and major roads. If price is not an issue, a buyer needs to take into account both the investment potential as well as individual values and lifestyle choices.

At the end of the day, if you can’t afford to buy a property at a higher price per square foot, then you’re going to buy a property that best meets your needs within your budget. You can always decide to sacrifice on square footage in order to buy in a more sought-after, expensive location, but (again) that is a going to be a lifestyle decision.

See other articles related to: mcwilliamsballard, ask an agent

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/ask_an_agent_what_are_the_most_important_metrics_when_buying_a_home/1063


  1. Tim said at 11:38 am on Wednesday June 24, 2009:


  1. Looking said at 12:07 pm on Wednesday June 24, 2009:

    For some (like Tim) this may be obvious, but it needed to be spelled out to me. I have been looking in DC for a long time, and wondered about these things until an agent explained what matters re investment potential.

  1. Higher Floor v. Parking Spot said at 1:14 pm on Thursday June 25, 2009:

    I am willing to pay premium for square foot to purchase a condo in a highly desirable location in DC; it’s 10 min. walk to 2 metro stops, grocery store, resturants etc. Q re: the investment potential: my max. purchase price can buy (at my 1st choice high rise bldg.) a unit on mid level floor w/o no parking spot included, or alt. similar price for an identical 2nd floor unit with parking spot. Most re-sales in this area include parking spot but these units are brand new and parking add on cost appears less negotiable. I dont have a car and would lease the space out anyway- but in terms of re-sale value. I will try to negotiate parking included w/higher level unit but if Im forced to choose- which is more important for re-sale- with parking spot or higher level floor?

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