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Where to Buy: Virginia Neighborhoods with the Best Investment Potential


by Mark Wellborn

Where to Buy: Virginia Neighborhoods with the Best Investment Potential
Oktoberfest in Shirlington by cliff1066

It is a new era for prospective home buyers in Virginia, who are now looking beyond places like Clarendon and Old Town, Alexandria to more suburban, lesser-known neighborhoods. With new developments and expanded modes of public transportation, these buyers are introducing themselves to areas in Virginia that used to be perceived as farther away from DC proper than some fly-over states.  So, what are the Clarendons and Old Towns of the future? We hope to provide the answers in this piece.

Shirlington

Shirlington is not exactly an up-and-coming neighborhood, but rather one that has been gradually heading upward for the last decade. The southern Arlington zip code nestled around I-395, Route 7 and Walter Reed Drive (see map here) owes much of its renaissance to The Village at Shirlington. “There used to be one store at The Village, and now you have movie theaters, restaurants, coffee shops and tons of stores that have all popped up in the last ten years,” area broker Leslie Wilder told UrbanTurf. “A lot of the area’s popularity is due to that.”

In Shirlington, you can get a 750 square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath condo for around $280,000 and if you can swing something in the mid $400,000s, you can buy a 1,600 square-foot three-level townhouse. There is no Metro stop in the immediate vicinity but buses run frequently from Shirlington to the Pentagon. (The trip takes just nine minutes.) Arlington County also recently built a bus station at The Village at Shirlington that connects with Old Town’s King Street Metro on the blue and yellow lines. With a new Busboys and Poets, Harris Teeter and leash-free dog park, this area may be more dynamic and pedestrian-friendly than the U Street Corridor in five years.

Median Home List Price$364,000
Median List Price/Square Foot$296
Percentage of Homes Where the Listing Price Has Been Reduced38.7
Colonial Village
Colonial Village
Colonial Village

In an era of high gas prices and increasingly reliable modes of public transportation, living in a place like Colonial Village seems to make more sense by the day. Just over Key Bridge from Georgetown, the North Arlington neighborhood (see map here) is a place where you can live a suburban lifestyle, but never be much more than a fifteen-minute walk from one of two Metro stops (Rosslyn and Courthouse, both on the blue and orange lines). The area is filled with affordable brick homes built in the 1940s that are a pleasant departure from many of the high-rise developments now springing up along the Virginia side of the Potomac.

“There are fairly old buildings in Colonial Village with a lot of potential for ‘sweat equity,’” Laura Rubinchuk of Keller Williams said. “But it is pretty hard to find a short sale or bank-owned property in Colonial Village and this helps keep the property prices stable because properties are not selling for less than they are worth.”

Although the area feels suburban (street parking is plentiful), it is only a short walk to grocery stores, pharmacies and other shops. Rubinchuk noted that the area is becoming quite popular with couples in their 20s and 30s that don’t mind the short commute to DC.

Median Home List Price$292,000
Median List Price/Square Foot$457
Percentage of Homes Where the Listing Price Has Been Reduced50
Huntington/Hoffman

The Huntington Metro station in Alexandria has been around for 25 years, but only in the last few years have the areas surrounding it started to see signs of development. The same goes for Hoffman, the neighborhood just adjacent to Huntington, that was primarily known for two non-descript office buildings, but now boasts a big multiplex, restaurants and various condo developments.

Huntington is just outside the Beltway in Fairfax County bordered by Route 1 and Telegraph Road and Hoffman is the area just inside the Beltway bordered by Telegraph Road (see map here), so perhaps their distance from downtown DC is the obvious reason for the slow pace of development. However, with a slew of new high-rise and mid-rise mixed use developments, and the renovation of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge getting rid of some older commercial properties, the area is finally realizing its potential.

Huntington and Hoffman are also the closest northern Virginia areas to the new National Harbor, which sits just across the Potomac in Maryland and is a straight shot across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

“It probably sounds a bit nuts to say that it is finally time to look at investment opportunities in an area that by all rights should have taken off years ago,” David Howell of McEnearney Associates told UrbanTurf. “But that’s the way it looks to me.”

Median Home List Price$280,000
Median List Price/Square Foot$280
Percentage of Homes Where the Listing Price Has Been Reduced45.5
Tysons Corner
Tysons Corner
Tysons Corner

Most people are not aware of the Metro’s silver line, but it is poised to make Tysons Corner more than just an office and shopping mecca. The planned extension of the Metro will consist of 29 new stations from Route 772 in Loudoun County to the Stadium-Armory in DC, and four of the stations will be in Tysons Corner.

“The fact that the Metro is eventually coming to ‘downtown Northern Virginia’ will be transformative,” David Howell said, using one of Tysons Corner’s aliases. “There is substantial, ongoing commercial and residential development in Tysons, and as traffic in the region only gets worse, the ability to either walk to work or hop onto a nearby Metro stop and ride a couple of stations will be huge.”

While delivery is as far off as 2013, there are a number of projects in the works including three new 15-story residential towers on Towers Crescent Drive and a huge multi-use development on Chain Bridge Road and International Drive that will include four high-rise residential towers.

In a rather apt description of its standing in the DC area, the blog BeyondDC described Tysons Corner as “the most important activity center in the Washington region after downtown DC itself. It is the thousand-pound gorilla in our midst, and cannot be ignored just because it’s in Fairfax County.”

Median Home List Price$480,000
Median List Price/Square Foot$292
Percentage of Homes on Market Where Price Has Been Reduced48.1

3 Comments

  1. Christine Rich said at 8:53 pm on Friday October 24, 2008:
    While I agree that Shirlington and Colonial Village are great Arlington locations, I would also like to nominate Fairlington as a great place to consider. This historic neighborhood is close to all the Arlington/Alexandria/DC conveniences. Many of the homes have been totally upgraded/updated and have a perfect sized patio for outdoor entertaining. Community amenities include tennis courts and pools. Even in the toughest economic times, Fairlington homes have proven to be a good investment.
  1. E said at 6:36 pm on Monday November 17, 2008:
    To be consistent with the title of the article, I would think that the N. Virginia locations/neighborhoods with the "best investment potential" ought to include some discussion regarding their respective public school districts. Real estate is, generally, a relatively longer-term investment (as opposed to the more traditional shorter-term investments such as securities, etc.), and from my experience, it seems that the fair market values of homes in this metropolitan area hold up better where schools are ranked the highest. I think that the education aspect of potential real estate investments is absent in the above article.
  1. Michael said at 1:48 am on Tuesday November 18, 2008:
    29 new stations is a pipe dream, and progress will be v ery slow in any case. Plus, transforming Tysons is questionable with the decision to make Metro above ground in that area.

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