As a resident with deep roots in Fairfax County I was in a conundrum when it came to getting a new house with no stairs and wider doorways to make room for a walker or a wheelchair that is now part of our lives. A one-level house or villa was needed but the $500,000 pricetag was not, so searching on the web for a new house in our price range meant moving out of the area.
I didn’t want to relocate but the price of housing in Fairfax County left me with no choice.
My quest started with a visit to Realtor.com to see if it was really true, are the prices around Northern Virginia that high? I needed a two- or three-bedroom house on one level with two full baths in the $350,000 price range. Not a condo either. Fuhgeddaboudit!
In Alexandria, there was a house that met my criteria but the price on Realtor.com was $750,000 which is more than double of my range, so I expanded my horizons. There was a rambler in Fort Hunt at $574,000; another rambler in Lorton for $570,000; a one-level house in Fairfax for $679,000, and out in Reston a similar place was listed for $649,000. Ugh. On the lower end, a duplex with stairs was $539,000 and another for $509,000 but not in a desired location. Even $509,000 is way out of my price range.
The average price of a home across the nation has gone up in the last few years and continues to climb. According to Rocket Homes, the median price of a home in Virginia is $385,038, while in Washington, D.C. it is $649,722. That's quite a difference in prices, but the Virginia price is statewide, so Northern Virginia is more on the DC level. In California, the median price is $750,080 while in West Virginia is on the low end at $214,446. In Lorton, where my house was, the average price is $665,493.
Realtor.com claims "the average home price in Northern Virginia is around $700,000, which is significantly higher than the national average." They said it takes an income of about $117,561 a year to afford to live in Northern Virginia.
Geographically housing prices start to go down in the outer reaches of Prince William County, Stafford and Fredericksburg.
Candice Bennett, Interim Executive Director at Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services, Inc. has seen the real estate prices scare people away from buying in Fairfax County. People she's worked with are looking elsewhere. "It's not uncommon," she said. "Going one or two counties over is super significant," she said.
Fairfax County defines an affordable home as a home where the buyer has enough income to pay housing expenses and still have enough money left over to provide for basic needs like food, clothing and medical care. Ideally the housing expenses should not exceed 30% of buyers income.
Bennett noted the rents at North Hill development in Mount Vernon, which has affordable units, can be $2200 a month for a three-bedroom. That price range makes it difficult to rent as well.
State and county employees have faced the reality that while they work in Northern Virginia, some cannot afford to live where they work. At Good Shepherd, they worked with a school cafeteria worker who put her kids through school but in the end, she had to move to another state to get something she could afford.