Craftsman, Colonial or Cape, Arlington offers just about every style and size of home imaginable. But as any prospective buyer knows, one thing our community does not have is a large inventory. In fact, as of March 2016, there were only 15 properties on the market in the Tuckahoe Elementary School district—and just 175 single-family homes for sale in the entire county. Considering that Arlington is home to more than 229,000 residents in over 108,000 households, this small amount of listings is a testament to the desirability of our area.
The local real estate market is more competitive than ever. Coral Gundlach, a Tuckahoe parent and Realtor, has witnessed the transformation that our neighborhoods have experienced over the past fifteen years. The Tuckahoe Garden and Home Show (TGHS) team sat down with Coral to ask her about the major trends in the residential real estate market.
TGHS: When did you first come to Arlington and how did you start in real estate?
CG: I moved here in 2001 from San Francisco, where we had lived in three different rentals over three years. I was determined to buy a home when we got here. The market was competitive even back then, and we lost out on a few homes before finding one. I was so impressed with our Realtors (we had two working with us) and they made a huge impact on our ability to purchase. Choosing where you live is an incredibly personal process, and I was so impressed with how our Realtors helped us that with their encouragement, I decided to go for a career in real estate in 2004, after having my first child. The close relationships that I develop with my clients are one of my favorite parts of the job.
TGHS: What is something about the market that might be surprising to people looking to buy a home in Arlington?
CG: One issue is that there continues to be a dearth of what we call “move-up home” options for buyers who don’t want really large new construction. Features like main-level family rooms, open kitchens, and master suites with larger closets are hard to find in the 800-1.2 million range. We’ve never had a lot of these mid-sized homes, but we seem to have even fewer than we did a decade ago, as starter homes are now being torn down and replaced with huge houses that start around 1.5 million or more. These “tear downs” are great houses that sell from $500-700K (sometimes more depending on neighborhood and lot size), so the builder has to build a really large and pricey house to make a profit. Those larger homes eventually sell, but I find that many buyers would prefer slightly smaller homes with more of a yard for a couple of hundred thousand less. That’s why the Home and Garden Tour is such a great event, because it shows people that remodeling their current home instead of buying a new one can be a really great option.
TGHS: One wonderful aspect of the Garden and Home Tour is that you never know what you are going to find behind the doors of the homes on the tour—a 1940s cottage with charm and character can really become a dream home with the right updates. Tell us a little bit about the renovation projects that you think can make the biggest difference.
CG: The simplest changes actually make the biggest difference. I work with a lot of sellers who haven’t updated their homes in twenty years, and my goal is to get them the best return on investment. It’s amazing what the right paint, fixtures and lighting can do to transform a house to sell. As for bigger renovations, my favorites are the ones that open up the closed colonial-style, bringing circular flow and better natural light to the older homes. Larger windows, higher ceilings, and creating flow between rooms make a home much more inviting.
TGHS: What’s your best advice for prospective buyers who are looking to find their own Arlington gem?
CG: The first thing to remember when buying in Arlington is, “There is no such thing as a perfect home.” People must make compromises to live in this amazing county, so I encourage my buyers to prioritize their must-haves, location being the biggest, and not compromise them and learn to live without some other features. Aside from that, so many things in a house can be changed or fixed. People get stuck because they want a “move-in ready” home, or they sometimes get hung up on cosmetic issues, but if you can see beyond those less-perfect details and embrace the fun of adding your own touch to a home, you will succeed in buying in this market. I try to help my clients see the underlying positives in a home that may have, say, carpeting instead of hardwoods, or an older kitchen. By considering what you can do to improve a potential house and put your personal stamp on it, you can often get a better deal and not spend as much as you would by holding out for the elusive perfect house.
Coral Gundlach is a CRS level top producing real estate consultant specializing in residential real estate. Her geographic focus is Arlington, Falls Church, Alexandria, McLean, Vienna, Fairfax and Loudoun county Virginia. Coral helps clients define their goals and look at the big picture to help clients buy, sell, rent or refinance to reach their goals. Her marketing for listings is extraordinary, providing professional photos, staging advice, contractor recommendations, video and 3-D virtual tours for every listing. She also spends time uniquely packaging the home and neighborhood’s best features to buyers through a variety of media channels—YouTube, Facebook, Instagram. A premier agent on Zillow and Trulia, she ensures that her sellers’ listings rank at the top of buyers’ home searches. Last year her Arlington average days on market was 5 days and her listings sold on average for 2% over asking price. She works extensively with all kinds of buyers—from first time to repeat, she will navigate through the often confusing process from finding the right neighborhood to negotiating price, inspections, mortgage options and make the experience exciting and enjoyable. Coral is a platinum sponsor for the Tuckahoe Home and Garden tour for 2016. For more information, check out www.coralgundlach.com.