Single Family Home

Landscaping For Resale and Current Trends

Question: I’m planning to sell my single family home in North Arlington this year and it seems that in my neighborhood, homes with great landscaping sell for top dollar. Our sale price justifies an investment in our lot, so I’m curious what the Arlington home-buyer demand from landscaping and if there are certain types of landscaping that offer the best Return on Investment.

Answer: Every spring I get a lot of landscaping questions and like to bring in my friend Jeff Minnich of Jeff Minnich Garden Designs to update Arlingtonians on what homeowners are doing in their yards and provide cost-effective tips for investing in your exterior for resale. If you’d like to continue the conversation with Jeff, you can reach him at jeff@minnichgardendesign.com or 703-525-4540.

Enjoy Jeff’s expert response to this week’s question:

In Arlington, homeowners take great pride in their gardens. Our temperate climate is such that we can enjoy our gardens for the majority of the year. Over the last 15 years, there has been a trend toward extending the interior living space seamlessly into the outdoor living space–outdoor rooms, kitchens, fire pits, play areas, fencing, to name a few.  The desirability of a well-designed garden space is a solid investment, and attractive to potential Arlington homebuyers.

Most people involved in the landscape industry have seen a surge in business the last few years, as the economy recovers. This year is particularly busy.

There are really two kinds of investment in a home and garden: doing what will bring pleasure, enjoyment, and ease to day-to-day life in the home; and doing what might add value to the property, if resale is in the cards.

When preparing to sell a home in Arlington, it is important to remember that many buyers have the means and desire to put their own personal stamps on their new homes and gardens. Therefore, I always recommend concentrating on safety items, tidiness, and color.

Fix that uneven sidewalk or replace rotten wood on the deck. Fix gates. Replace the burnt out bulbs in your outdoor lighting system (lots of potential buyers drive by and have a look at night, too). Have the windows cleaned and check the exterior paint job, particularly the front door (yes, these items are part of the outdoor landscape, too). Power wash the house, sidewalks, patio, deck, driveway…make sure your hardscapes sparkle.

Weed, re-edge and mulch the planting beds. Remove old/dead shrubs and trim existing ones. Look up into your trees–does a tree or branch look dead or precarious? Have a tree professional look at it. Potential homebuyers do notice these things. Cut the grass and make sure your lawn is not full of blooming dandelions! This one item can be a big turn-off.

Finally, finish the job by adding some flowers to windowboxes, pots, and beds. Remember, you cannot take back that first impression–the outside of your home is the first thing potential buyers see before walking through the front door, and it can often make or break a sale.

 

Once new homeowners get settled on the inside, they start to ponder what to do in their new gardens.

The most common request from new homeowners is a master landscape plan, which is a great starting place so they can prioritize, then phase, the work they’d like to do, all within a broader vision.

Safety issues should be addressed quickly–items like unstable walks or decks, handrails; and the often boring, but absolutely necessary, issues like grading, drainage, and where to put trash cans.

Fencing is a relatively quick and easy project to prioritize early on, and fences can give instant privacy, keep children and pets in the yard, and define a space. Nice fencing is particularly attractive to potential buyers with these concerns.

Outdoor living spaces are the next most-desired items, and these often involve building. It’s always a good idea to start with hardscapes–patios, sidewalks, decks, porches, walls, outdoor kitchens, etc.–and end with softscapes–plants, lawns, lighting, irrigation–as construction is messy and, try as they might, workers can still damage plants and surrounding areas.

Privacy from fencing and thoughtful plantings can screen unsightly views and enclose outdoor spaces.

Those interested in safety might find low-voltage outdoor lighting desirable. Outdoor lighting opens up the garden for nighttime use, too, and can be used to highlight architecture, specimen plantings, or specific pieces within the landscape.

For those who often travel and have very busy schedules, an irrigation system is a must. It really takes the edge off watering duties, yet should never 100 percent replace a discriminating eye and hand-watering intervention when gardens get really hot and dry.

I often say my outdoor lighting gives me the nighttime and my irrigation system gives me freedom, so they are very valuable to me.

Beautiful plantings are the icing on the cake and tie everything together. Much of North Arlington is blessed with large shade trees — a big reason potential buyers consider North Arlington — and lush evergreen and deciduous underplantings help potential buyers imagine living in these outdoor spaces.

Without a doubt, garden projects that define and enclose personal outdoor spaces–things like fencing and nice gates, patios and seating areas, and beautiful plantings–are items that not only increase the day-to-day enjoyment of the homeowner, they greatly increase the value of the property, as well.

Real Estate Investor Activity in Arlington

Question: By year and areas of Arlington, what percentage of original house sales have been to developers and what percentage have been to individual/family occupants?

Answer: The numbers suggest that since 2009, just over 1,000 detached home sales in Arlington are to an investor. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to accurately determine the true numbers because so many investors buy properties off-market, but I’ll walk you through the data I used, some caveats, and my findings to get as close to an answer as I can.

The Data

  1. Data set includes all 8,004 sales recorded in MRIS (REALTOR database of record for “on-market” sales) of detached/single family homes in Arlington from Jan 1 2009 to Aug 20 2016
  2. Despite attempts with tax records and the County, I couldn’t come up with a good way to account for off-market deals. Since many tear-downs are off-market purchases I’ve attempted to back into the data using the sales of the finished home.
  3. Defining investor activity
    • I targeted tear-down/new build sales by parsing out homes sold within three years from when they were built
    • I targeted flips by parsing out two transactions at the same address where the second sale had a % return and time to market that suggested investor activity (quick re-sale w/ high mark-up)

Tear Down/New Build Sales:

Of the 8,004 detached home sales, 711 are likely tear-down/new build investor projects. Most should have a 1:1 corresponding purchase, but are small developments where multiple homes were built on one or more sub-divided lots (one purchase results in multiple new home sales).

Ask Eli Aug 30 2016 table FINAL

Tear Down/New Build Sales Stats:

I was able to locate corresponding purchase data in MRIS for 188 out of the 711 tear-down sales summarized above. Some sales statistics for those 188 sales below:

Ask Eli Aug 30 2016 Table 2

 

House Flipping:

While not quite as common, I identified 232 likely flips by investors in which two sales occurred over a short period of time (usually within 12 months) and the second sale sold for a significantly higher price. Here’s a summary of the non-tear down investor sales. Each has a corresponding purchase recorded in MRIS:

Ask Eli Aug 30 2016 Table 3

Based on the above data, I’ve identified 420 sales by investors since 2009 with corresponding purchases in MRIS and approximately 500 off-market, tear down purchases. There’s also likely to be a small number of off-market flip deals, but not nearly as many as off-market tear-down purchases.

There are currently 91 detached homes listed for sale or under contract that were built since 2014 that have a corresponding purchase by an investor either on or off-market. Additionally, the historical flip numbers suggest that there are about 20-30 flips purchased in the last 12 months by investors that have yet to be sold.

This brings us to approximately 1,050-1,100 homes sold to investors since 2009, which represents approximately 10-12% of total home sales. With each investor purchase having a corresponding sale by the investor, the total transaction activity for detached homes in Arlington attributed to investors is around 20%.

This week’s question was brought to us by one of ARLnow’s most prolific commenters and I enjoyed the challenge! It certainly put my data/Excel skills (and patience) to the test. I enjoy this type of data-driven article and welcome similar questions from other readers.

Landscaping for Homeowners and Sellers

Question: What are some good landscaping tips for selling my home this spring?

To answer your question, I sat down with my good friend and long-time Arlington resident, Jeff Minnich (you should see his yard!) of Jeff Minnich Garden Design, to discuss smart ways to boost the outdoor appeal of your home before listing it and talked about some of the current landscaping trends he’s seeing.

High ROI Landscaping for Sellers

  • DAPPR: Define bed edges, Add fresh mulch, Pull the weeds, Prune the bushes, andRemove dead leaves
  • Lawn is King: Tall Fescue grass works the best in Arlington. The best time to seed your lawn is March – April and September. Water 1-2x per week. Give it about a month to grow.
  • Blast of Color: Azaleas are beautiful around here in April and May. Pansies are good options fall thru spring. Geraniums are great in the summer.
  • Grand Entrance: Your front door is a focal point – hit it with a fresh coat of paint or replace all together. Power wash your driveway and walkways. Flagstone aka Pennsylvania Bluestone offer great value if you need to replace or add a walkway (also perfect for patios).
  • Create a Scene: Help potential buyers picture themselves relaxing in their future yard by staging an area of your yard with chairs, table, umbrella, hammock, lemonade pitcher, etc.
  • De-clutter: Just like you removed personal items from inside the home, put things like statues and lawn gnomes away
  • Condos too: If you have some outdoor space (balcony, patio, etc) pot some plants (see Blast of Color) and stage it (see Create a Scene)

Landscaping for Homeowners

Trends:

  • Outdoor living spaces are the biggest trend in Arlington. This includes kitchens, fire pits, entertainment areas, and lighting
  • Hydrangeas and other “old fashioned” shrubbery are back in style. Dogwoods and azaleas are always trendy in Arlington.

Approaching a landscaping project:

  • Step 1 Hardscaping: Install patios, walkways, living spaces, water features, etc. This can cost anywhere from $10,000-$25,000+
  • Step 2 Sheds and Storage: Establish space for these items next
  • Step 3 Plantings: Work from biggest (trees) to smallest (flowers)
  • A full project usually takes 1-3 months to complete
  • There’s no such thing as maintenance-free

Thank you Jeff for all of your great advice. To learn more about Jeff or see examples of his work, please visit his website (link) or send an email tojeff@minnichgardendesign.com. Jeff received his horticulture degree, with an emphasis on landscape design and nursery management, from Virginia Tech. His garden design/build firm, Jeff Minnich Garden Design, Inc. takes the client from initial design concept through the completed garden design. Enjoy the wonderful colors of his personal Arlington garden at 2268 N. Upton St.

The Cost of an Extra Bedroom

Question: What is the price per bedroom ($/BR) in Arlington?

This is a GREAT question and I’ve been looking forward to answering since early December. Before I jump into the data, I want to point out that giving a dollar-value is impossible on such a large scale because $/BR is relative to the cost/type of home, so instead of a dollar value, I discuss the % increase to add a bedroom in order to normalize the data.

 

Cost of a Condo Bedroom

I compared one and two-bedroom condo sales within high rises with at least thirty sales since 2008 and a healthy balance of one and two-bedroom sales. Thirty-nine buildings made the cut, with 1,748 one-bedroom and 1,616 two-bedroom sales representing the data. Instead of lumping all one and two-bedrooms together and taking the average, I calculated % difference within each building first and averaged them together (thank god for pivot tables!).

RESULTS

·         The average two-bedroom condo costs 52.6% more than a comparable one-bedroom (standard deviation of 16.6%)

·         88% of the time a second bedroom also comes with a second bathroom

·         The average two-bedroom condo is 421 square feet larger than a one-bedroom

·         The cheapest buildings to add a bedroom are Ballston 880 in VA Square/Ballston (16.1% increase) and Tower Villas in VA Square (20.4% increase)

·         The most expensive buildings to add a bedroom are Waterview in Rosslyn (81.8%) and Horizon House in Pentagon City (83.8%)

·         The relative cost to add a bedroom was almost identical in North and South Arlington, although the dollar value increases significantly in North Arlington

 

Cost of a Detached/Single Family Home Bedroom

I chose to compare Craftsman style homes because they’re the most popular home design in Arlington right now and are mostly newer builds/renovations with similar quality (good for data). In all, there have been 495 Craftsman-style homes sold in Arlington in the last 10 years. 94% of those sales were for three, four, or five-bedroom homes (22%, 56%, and 16% respectively), so this is where we’ll focus.

RESULTS

·         Adding a fourth bedroom costs an average of 28.5% more than a comparable three-bedroom

·         Adding a fifth bedroom costs and average of 10.5% more than a comparable four-bedroom

·         The cost difference closely tracks the increase in square footage, with a 22.6% and 7.3% increase in square footage between three and four-bedroom and four and five-bedroom homes, respectively

·         The 22201, 22205, and 22207 zip codes were responsible for 82% of the total Craftsman sales volume (last 10 years) with average sale prices of $1.16M, $1.43M, and $1.56M for three, four, and five-bedroom homes, respectively

 

I also found that the relative cost to add a bedroom remained consistent over the last 10 years, despite the dollar value increasing as home prices go up.

 

ATTN Readers!! In March I’m starting a monthly neighborhood spotlight and looking for Arlingtonians who would like their opinions incorporated into this column (favorite running trail, best neighborhood bar, neighborhood personality, etc). Send me an email if you’re interested!