When I walked into a neighbor’s Vienna Virginia rambler recently to give her an idea of what needed to be done, I had to be brutally honest about a strategy for selling it. Since she and her husband bought it way back in 1957 when it was a brand new home (she is one of the last original owners in the neighborhood), my dose of reality wasn’t too surprising to her.
When builders built ramblers in McLean and Vienna back in the 1950’s, the area was still rather rural providing supplies to Washington D.C. People lived in smaller rooms, had smaller kitchens, and did not have the electrical power needs that today’s world requires. Back then bread cost .15¢ and calling people “long distance” was a luxury.
Since that time, Northern Virginia has grown economically with a large international airport (Dulles), the Capital Beltway and Interstate Highway System, the Metro, Hospitals, and became the home of many Fortune 100 companies. In essence, Northern Virginia went from orchards and dairy cows to an diverse economy that exceeds many country’s GDP.
The typical rambler has become functionally obsolete for today’s modern lifestyle, and now sits on land that is valued close to market value.
Have you driven around McLean or Vienna recently?
If you are trying to figure out what to do with your rambler, or “Mom’s house”, then you should consider these questions:
- when was the house built?
- has the sewer lateral ever been replaced?
- how big or updated is the kitchen?
- is there still pink tile in the bathroom?
- is there a car port?
- was the basement ever finished and is it a walk-out?
- is the roof okay?
- how old is the furnace and AC?
What I find most “original owners” can grasp is the fact that their home is in an ideal location and will probably be a perfect spot for a new, larger infill home.
What they can’t grasp is the value of the home on the real estate market.
Reading the free, local newspaper usually shows ramblers for sale that are fixed up, expended, remodeled, or have a distinct reason for appealing to today’s buyer. These home listings aren’t especially helpful when determining what a builder may pay in an as-is sale.
Home builders desire those infill properties
It is important before talking with a builder (who is an investor) with me to get an understanding of current values, because it is essential to know the value of your home in his eyes. And that is where I provided valuable insight to my neighbor because we were able to discuss a price or value range without remodeling her kitchen, fixing her baths, painting etc. As a result she will net significantly more by not doing all of those projects…
On a personal aside, I bought a 1957 rambler back in 2003 with the plan to gut the interior and add an upstairs addition. The home had sat on the market a long time and the seller had done a good number of upgrades. But, I will never forget her comment when we told her our plans… “then I never would have done those updates”.
No, I didn’t tear down the house but the floor plan is radically different from the original plan and designed for modern living.
So the reality is that your McLean or Vienna home is functionally obsolete for today’s styles, but your “real estate” still has real value.