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Old 09-09-2007, 07:22 AM
 
173 posts, read 759,577 times
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Look at Reston. It is a nationally recognized plan community. Very well done.
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Old 09-11-2007, 10:36 AM
 
Location: Vienna
4 posts, read 7,435 times
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Smile Planned communities versus organic communities

As for whether you would like a planned community or an 'organic,' (as in naturally created over time) community, I think it depends on how you feel about some basic things. Do you like diversity of cultures, ages and incomes? If so, you might just love the Town of Vienna or the cities of Falls Church or Fairfax. All of these areas have neighborhoods with home prices in your range, yet they also have the benefits of being part of defined localities with a lot of local flavor that includes community centers, longstanding seasonal events, vibrant arts communities (for the suburbs) and lots of local shopping. Schools in all these three areas are excellent. Yes, you can get more for your money in Chantilly and other outlying areas, but how much time will you spend commuting? We just finished an exhaustive house search (from Loudoun to Falls Church) and settled in the Town of Vienna. I saw places where we could have gotten more house for our money, but after a while, I developed a sort of internal "vibrance" scale, and where we settled met our needs. I am sure you will have your own. We rented (because the prices were so hideous when we got here...inflated beyond any common sense scale and we might have done better if we had waited another year...but we REALLY were ready to settle down) for two years. The one thing our Realtor emphasized repeatedly was -- in the crazy real estate market this area has been in for the last several years -- that houses closer in to DC retain their value. That said, nothing is of value unless it suits your needs. Whoever will be working at an office needs to come down and do the drive during rush hour from some of the different target areas you have named. That might help you define your search a little better.
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Old 09-11-2007, 10:49 AM
 
Location: Ashburn, VA
71 posts, read 291,619 times
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A local realtor shouldn't be a stranger. The realtor you use should be one that was referred to you by a friend/coworker/family memeber who has used a particular realtor and thinks highly of them. Thousands of people in this area have real estate licenses and most probably aren't very useful. An agent won't be referred if they can't do the job. If your friend/coworker/family memeber had a good experience, you may as well.
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Old 09-12-2007, 05:41 PM
 
1,723 posts, read 5,123,053 times
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You should consider renting for a year while you familiarize yourself with the area. Northern Virginia is huge and has a lot of different areas to consider. If you want a more suburban feel, go out to Centreville/Chantilly (the development of Little Rocky Run is actually located in the Centreville area; they had to threaten to sue the US Post Office in order to have a Clifton address, presumably because Clifton is more prestigious). If you prefer older communities in more established cities, try Vienna or Fairfax. However all of this is a moot point if your commute takes you to McLean or to Dumfries. You need to figure out where your husband will be working first - traffic here is no joke.
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Old 09-13-2007, 09:48 AM
 
Location: Sterling, VA
1,059 posts, read 2,621,874 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saganista View Post
A local realtor will be a complete stranger. He or she, if competent, will have specialized and localized expertise that may (and usually will) at some point become useful to a buyer. Realtors are not fairy godmothers with magical powers and abilities to guide people toward the making of wise and proper yet highly personal decisions that will cause them to live happily ever after. As a buyer, it is important to do the up-front research that will put you onto a level playing field with a potential realtor, if only to bring you to the point of being able to tell whether such potential realtor as much as understands, much less considers and actually seeks to address your wants, needs, and concerns. There is some sense to the notion that realtors are a lot like singers in a karaoke bar. Some may look good, some may have cool costumes, but not all of them can sing. Get yourself first to the point where you can go out and find yourself a singer. No one has ever regretted doing so...
I agree, Realtors are not mind readers and you need to do some thinking about what you really want and what is a "nice to have but not necessary". Once you pick an area, choose a buyer agent from that area. You want someone that lives there and knows the community. I know I will get a lot of comments from some Realtors, but don't use the listing agent as your agent. They represent the seller and you need someone looking out for you.
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Old 11-20-2007, 07:06 AM
 
Location: Vienna
4 posts, read 7,435 times
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Default finding the right community in Northern Virginia

Quote:
Originally Posted by memiller View Post
A local realtor shouldn't be a stranger. The realtor you use should be one that was referred to you by a friend/coworker/family memeber who has used a particular realtor and thinks highly of them. Thousands of people in this area have real estate licenses and most probably aren't very useful. An agent won't be referred if they can't do the job. If your friend/coworker/family memeber had a good experience, you may as well.
Of course, it's nice when your real estate agent has been referred. Ours was not a stranger at all. But, say, if we got posted to Nebraska, we would be hard pressed to find one that was not a stranger, even if we had a referral. The point here, I think, is that finding the community that's right for you and your family is a personal process. While good real estate agents will take the information you give them and do the best job they can in finding homes that fit your guidelines, you still have to come up with those guidelines on your own. To come up with your own realistic set of expectations, you have to do a lot of driving around, looking at homes, schools, traffic, and checking out of all the features you want. Where our agent was really terrific was in his flexibility and willingness to take us to places, looking at homes by the dozen. Renting for a year to get the feel of a place is important, and it looks like prices aren't going to be on the upswing, so anyone new to Northern Va. will certainly have the time to look without fear of facing higher prices twelve months from now.
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Old 11-20-2007, 08:22 AM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
15,400 posts, read 25,765,724 times
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I live in a planned community, an enormous HOA that goes by a few different names--Cascades, Potomac Falls, Lowes Island. It's the section of Sterling that is north of Rt. 7. Basically, the entire area around Algonkian Pkwy.

Most of the communities in Loudoun are planned communities, not cities (which explains the confusion about town names). It works very well in Loudoun County and keeps taxes and expenses low (since we don't have to pay for a city govt.) My HOA dues are $52 a year, and that pays for pools, gyms, tennis courts, landscaping of the common grounds, play grounds, snow removal, trash removal, etc. etc.

The neighborhoods are very well designed, IMO, with an abundance of walking trails (my favorite thing about living in VA).

I love living in a planned community, and would be happy to answer any questions you have.
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Old 11-20-2007, 08:30 AM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
15,400 posts, read 25,765,724 times
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Here are some photos of a planned community to give you an idea of what one looks like.

Keogan Homepage (http://www.keogan.com/loudounva.htm - broken link)

This happens to be Cascades, which is a 10-minute drive to Dulles. I shot these photos about a weeks ago. We had a challenge on the U.S. board to shoot photos of your neighborhood on a random day. That day happened to be a rainy day for me, so I just took a few quick shots--but they will give you an idea.
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Old 11-20-2007, 09:04 AM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
15,400 posts, read 25,765,724 times
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I just saw the questions in your original post:

were wondering what it is like living in a huge planned community (great for kids???, annoying??? alot of transients???, etc. and also about the schools specifically in that area. It seems to us like you get a lot more house for your money in Clifton, Chantilly, Ashburn than the Vienna area. But what are the trade offs?

I'll try my best to answer these...

IMO the planned communities are particularly geared for families. People move into them for the schools, the pools and the playgrounds. If you like having lots of kids around, this is great--if you want to live in an adult-oriented community you won't be happy in my neighborhood. We had 50-60 trick or treaters this year and a neighborhood halloween costume party. Your neighbors are likely to put up decorations for halloween and christmas. I happen to like this sort of thing, but you might find it annoying (for example, you have to drive carefully because there are plenty of kids playing--some people find that annoying).

I don't think there are many transients here--they tend to be in communities with apartments. But Virginia is a transitional place in general. People seem to move every 4-5 years. I think that's the same whether you live in a planned or unplanned community.

Trade offs? There are not a lot of 20-something singles in my particular planned community (but there are plenty in Reston, so that's not true for all planned communities). The houses tend to look alike.

HOAs have rules. I don't find them intrusive, but some people don't like knowing that if you don't mow your lawn, after about 3 weeks you will get a friendly reminder from the HOA. You can't leave a junk car on your lawn or paint your house neon orange. You can run a business from your home, but you can't do things like perform oil changes on your company fleet of trucks on the street in front of your house.

The stores tend to be chain stores--Trader Joes, not the produce sold by a local guy named Joe.

HOAs exert a certain amount of influence in local politics. For example, the govt. wants to build a bridge across the Potomac. My HOA is a major player in keeping it out of our neighborhood. Whether or not you think that is a good thing is up to you.

HOAs usually do not pay city taxes. Emergency services come from the county. Personally, I like the service we get from Loudoun, but it does give you less control over what might happen in the future.
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Old 11-20-2007, 10:50 AM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
15,400 posts, read 25,765,724 times
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Sorry to be posting so many notes, but I wanted to point out a mistake in my photo page. The typical neighborhood are about 25-26 houses grouped together. And the neighborhoods are very close together, even if they are separated by trees. There are a lot of houses here, and once the leaves fall the area will look densely packed with homes.

Here's another potential downside to my neighborhood (and, I would guess, many planned communities). Teenagers and 20-somethings find it boring (unless they are married and have kids).

There are no night clubs or liquor stores or "cool" places to hang out within walking distance. We have a place called Foxchase Tavern that has a sports bar and poker games on Friday night--but it appeals to people who are 30 or older. You have to drive at least 2 miles to Countryside to find a place teens like to hang out.

The stores in the shopping plaza at the end of my street tend to be family-oriented. They include a bank, a nail salon, a dentist, an art store, a shoe shop, 2-3 sandwich shops, Dunkin' Donuts, Subway, Papa Johns Pizza, sushi restaurant, Bloom (grocery store), a pre-school, a karate school, video store, chinese restaurant, sports store, Italian Restaurant, and the Foxchase Tavern. You are definitely in the suburbs!
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