There are many subjects that I discuss with home buyers when we first discuss their plans.
One factor that everyone looking at Vienna real estate needs to calculate is transportation costs. This Northern Virginia area was designed around an “automobile plan” where you had to drive to the shopping center or to work like most of suburban America.
Of course, back then, a gallon of gas cost less than a dollar, there were fewer traffic lights, and the roads could handle the volume.
Today, streets like Maple Avenue have a dozen intersections with stop lights and the afternoon rush hour begins at 3:30. The majority of that rush-hour traffic are cars driving from Tysons Corner to points west ~ passing through Vienna without stopping to shop.
What is essential for you to look at is the economic impact of traffic when you are determining the true cost of buying a home. This analysis will help you understand that buying a less expensive house in Loudoun County may actually impact your monthly household budget than you expect.
It is critical to factor in the distance to your office (or future office if you are relocating to Northern Virginia) and then examine the alternative routes to work.
If you are working in Reston, Tysons Corner or DC and considering a home in Loudoun County, then you should factor in the tolls charged on the Dulles Greenway and the Dulles Toll Road. These toll roads are very convenient especially when you consider the often congested alternate route which is Route 7.
You should know that these roads are expensive when you drive each day at rush hour and the Greenway tolls are at peak rates ($5.10 each way). Also, the Dulles Toll road costs $2.50 per trip (right now) if you are heading into Tysons or DC. (Drivers primarily use E-Z Pass)
Your type of vehicle is important because of the type of fuel, mileage, and what would happen if today’s per gallon prices jumped to $4.75 again.
Time is a factor too
The Washington DC metro area always seems to rank well on the “worst traffic” polls. Los Angeles and New York always seem to beat us for worst traffic, but you should understand that the area proudly ranks in the top-five worst places to commute.
This problem is actually the bright side of a robust economy. Employment is high and people need to get to those good jobs… so, they drive.
The x-factor on the time/commuting calculation is your personal life. Do you want to coach your sons lacrosse team? Do you want to see your daughter’s Irish step dance recital? Do you want to work out after work?
Until I talk with clients about their lifestyle, the importance of these is an unknown but critical to helping find the right home.
For example, look at McLean…
People always complain that McLean real estate is totally over price. The factors that I remind them of is that a lot of McLean home owners work in DC which is an easy trip over the Chain Bridge. It is like a back door into Georgetown or upper Northwest DC. Really, I have clients in McLean who can be in DC in less than 8 minutes! To them, that time saved is worth the expense.
A lot of those home owners also considered buying homes in Chevy Chase or Potomac but found that they could get more “bang-for-the-buck” with McLean real estate.
It is important to look at the broad picture because real estate isn’t an apples to apples cost comparison like many web sites make it seem. There are subtle influences and these need to be discussed to help you make quality of life decisions.
Location may take on a new meaning when you start to examine the true impact of driving in your real estate decisions.