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Old 03-17-2009, 10:23 AM
 
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Any Northern Virginia residents who have also lived in California? How do you think the adjustment will be for me?

I'm a federal employee currently working in SF. I'm a GS-11 and I've figured out the best way for me to get my GS-12 is to move to Washington DC. I have relatives in the area and I went to Georgetown University for graduate school so I'm somewhat familiar with the area (but I'm not familiar with NOVA).

My husband will most likely work in the high-tech "Silicon Valley of VA" area. (He's currently working in the original Silicon Valley.)

We have 4 children and I'm very interested in making sure they go to good schools. Hence our choice of NOVA. Seems the public schools there are practically the best in the nation. Right now my kids are in private school since the public schools in CA are not that great, but my husband would like to stop paying the tuition.

Also--believe it or not--we can get way more for our housing $$ in NOVA than in the SF Bay Area. No sticker shock for us; we are delighted to look at what kind of house $700K gets you in NOVA! Our CA house is worth $700K but has no basement, no yard, only 2000 sq ft. I'm blown away by what $700K gets in NOVA.

So--my first question--if we'd like a home with a 1/2 acre, and a relatively short drive to a Metro stop (I don't mind a long Metro commute but I do mind a long driving commute) and high-tech "Silicon Valley" area (what is it really called?--forgive my ignorance), what suburb should we choose? Oakton? What do you think?

I'll ask more questions later--this post is long enough for now. I've been reading this board for a while; you Virginians seem a friendly group.

Thanks for your help.
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Old 03-17-2009, 10:48 AM
 
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I think the most common name for the NoVa area you're describing is the "Dulles Corredor" or the "Tysons/Dulles Corredor."

Both Oakton and Vienna would be good choices. Currently, the last station on the metro Orange Line is the Vienna station (it does not extend to Oakton). However, there are some neighborhoods with Oakton mailing addresses that are closer to the Vienna metro than other neighborhoods with Vienna mailing addresses, and vice versa. If you want information about specific schools in either area, send me a PM and I'll be happy to respond.

Politically, you might find North Arlington more to your tastes (if you have the political views that most of us in NoVa associate with the Bay Area), but you'd get less house for the money. Plus, folks in NoVa these days pretty much span the political spectrum.

You may have seen this thread already, but I am linking to it since the OP also was looking for houses in the $700K price range.

Where to live in NOVA?

Good luck.
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Old 03-17-2009, 11:00 AM
 
Location: Mountain View, CA
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I have not lived in California, but I've visited San Francisco several times, so I'll help as best I can. As for your adjusting - I'm sure you'd adjust fine, but there are some differences between SF and NOVA. I'm not sure where you live now, but if its in SF proper, you'll be leaving a more urban area for a decidedly suburban one. Not that NOVA doesn't have some urban-ish areas (Arlington and Alexandria, mainly), but given the requirements you stated above, you'd likely be in one of the more suburban locales. What this means, is reliance on cars, dealing with traffic, etc. Being able to Metro to work will help a lot of course. And of course the weather is a big difference. NOVA summers can be very hot and humid. Fall and Spring are generally wonderful. Winter, while not extreme by Northeastern standards, is quite extreme by coastal California standards. Most winters feature average highs in the 40s and lows below freezing, and extended bouts of colder weather happen several times a winter. Winter storms, in the form of snow, sleet, freezing rain, or a mix, generally happen several times each winter, and high-impact events occur occasionally, though not every year. Personally I like the seasons, but if California weather is something you absolutely love, keep it in mind.

As for the "Silicon Valley of VA," I believe the proper term is the "Dulles Corridor," or "Dulles Technology Corridor." This is so named because of the high concentration of technology companies along the Dulles toll road, particularly in Tysons Corner, Reston, Herndon, around Dulles Airport itself, and in eastern Loudoun County. There are plenty of these companies in Fairfax, Centreville, and so forth as well though, but generally speaking, the MAJORITY are west of DC along the I-66 or Dulles Toll Road corridors. There's a few closer in in Arlington. Very few, relatively speaking, are along the I-95 corridor south of DC.

Where to live... Oakton may not be a bad choice. I'd say, anywhere close to the Vienna Metro or one of the Falls Church Metros. If your husband's job is along I-66, Vienna would be ideal. You could Metro to work, and he'd likely have a reverse commute under 30 minutes. If his job is along the Dulles Toll Road, it takes some extra time to get from I-66 north up to the toll road (there's no real good route), so in that case, Falls Church may be a better choice. I'm not sure about 1/2 acre of land in these locales for 700k, but you'd certainly be in range of some nice single family properties, I'd think.
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Old 03-17-2009, 11:07 AM
 
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Thanks so much for your quick response. As far as politics--funny you should bring it up!--actually my husband and I are both very politically conservative. That's another reason we are thinking of leaving the SF Bay Area; the ubiquitous liberalism is finally getting to us a bit.

But to be honest, we don't mind living around lots of Democrats--they tend to be very educated and well, honestly, just seem to choose to congregate in desirable locations (like suburbs that had some planning go into them (LOL), with good ethnic restaurants, good schools, places near the coasts, etc. We are flexible. We would have no problem having neighbors who are from the far Right or the far Left.

I'm actually not sure we'd actually need to go into the $700K range for houses; I've seen some in Oakton for $500K that seem amazing too. My husband wants land, though (by CA standards that means 1/2 acre plus) so maybe we'd go up to $700K to get an acre. I just don't want to get too far out.

My next question: to be honest, the excellent NoVa schools are a little intimidating to me. My boys (ages 12, 10, 6) all do very well in school, and test very well on nat'l tests, etc., but they are nevertheless laid-back Californians (dare I say a bit lazy?). They go to a small Christian school, very nurturing, and reading about these NoVa schools and their focus on materialism, Ivy League colleges, etc. is a little different than what they've experienced so far in CA.

In California employers literally don't care where you go to college. Even for a first job. They only care about what you've accomplished in the workplace.

I'm also worried about my boys and the weather. I've taken them to DC in the summer for vacations and when it is the tiniest bit humid they walk around looking bewildered by it, like they are dying. They don't know about thunderstorms and shoveling snow.

But they are excited because I told them they can finally get a dog if we can finally get a "real" yard.

Anyway--what do you think--is NoVa as "cut-throat" as it seems? The SF Bay Area is not cut-throat at all, although obviously a lot of smart and driven people work here.
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Old 03-17-2009, 11:23 AM
 
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Thanks JaHutch

The weather is indeed one of my biggest worries. We do really love the California weather. I lived in DC from 1991-93 though, so I quickly learned how to dress properly for the cold. Now that my boys are almost teenagers they can deal with the snow shoveling in VA, LOL!

I don't mind heat/humidity, but my boys would have a big adjustment. They had never even experienced any humidity in their lives, and last summer I took them to Mount Vernon, and it was just barely humid, I mean just a teeny bit, and they were absolutely horrified by it. They walked around dragging, eyes shocked, like they were zombies. They are used to 100 degree temps, but only desert-dry heat. They were acting like they were on a new planet. It was pretty funny actually.

Maybe we'd have to look for a house with a pool. It seems pools are not as common with homes in VA as they are in CA, but even more necessary, if you ask me! Maybe people go to community pools more in VA.

I'm thinking the advantages of NoVa will outweigh the disadvantages, which for us would indeed be the weather. Although it would be nice to have a real Spring and Fall for a change.

My boys adored the fireflies, and were also amazed by thunderstorms. They had never even been in a hard rain! It kind of just sprinkles in CA, when it rains, at least where we live.

I'm in a SF Bay Area suburb (Livermore, 45 miles east of SF), so I'm familiar with suburban living.

Thanks for your help!
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Old 03-17-2009, 11:55 AM
 
5,071 posts, read 8,616,501 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olivia3boys View Post
Thanks so much for your quick response. As far as politics--funny you should bring it up!--actually my husband and I are both very politically conservative. That's another reason we are thinking of leaving the SF Bay Area; the ubiquitous liberalism is finally getting to us a bit.

But to be honest, we don't mind living around lots of Democrats--they tend to be very educated and well, honestly, just seem to choose to congregate in desirable locations (like suburbs that had some planning go into them (LOL), with good ethnic restaurants, good schools, places near the coasts, etc. We are flexible. We would have no problem having neighbors who are from the far Right or the far Left.

I'm actually not sure we'd actually need to go into the $700K range for houses; I've seen some in Oakton for $500K that seem amazing too. My husband wants land, though (by CA standards that means 1/2 acre plus) so maybe we'd go up to $700K to get an acre. I just don't want to get too far out.

My next question: to be honest, the excellent NoVa schools are a little intimidating to me. My boys (ages 12, 10, 6) all do very well in school, and test very well on nat'l tests, etc., but they are nevertheless laid-back Californians (dare I say a bit lazy?). They go to a small Christian school, very nurturing, and reading about these NoVa schools and their focus on materialism, Ivy League colleges, etc. is a little different than what they've experienced so far in CA.

In California employers literally don't care where you go to college. Even for a first job. They only care about what you've accomplished in the workplace.

I'm also worried about my boys and the weather. I've taken them to DC in the summer for vacations and when it is the tiniest bit humid they walk around looking bewildered by it, like they are dying. They don't know about thunderstorms and shoveling snow.

But they are excited because I told them they can finally get a dog if we can finally get a "real" yard.

Anyway--what do you think--is NoVa as "cut-throat" as it seems? The SF Bay Area is not cut-throat at all, although obviously a lot of smart and driven people work here.
In terms of politics, I think you would be surprised by how apolitical many people in NoVa will come across, despite NoVa's proximity to DC and the high percentage of government workers and political appointees who live here. Particularly as you travel further west into Western Fairfax or Loudoun, you will find that most care about "Good Government," whether at the local, state or federal level, rather than "Big Government" or "Small Government" per se. The area is generally moderate, but trending Democratic. On the other hand, a Republican candidate recently won a local election in Fairfax County.

There are plenty of houses on 1/2 acre lots available in Oakton or Vienna @ $700K. As you note, some houses on 1/2 acre are available for less. Once you move up to a full acre, the home price will increase, the house will be older and/or you'll probably be further away from the Vienna metro. For example, in the town of Vienna itself, most of the lots are around 1/3 of an acre, with a fair number of 1/2 acre lots. If you want a full acre, you'd probably need to be in other areas with Vienna, Oakton or Great Falls mailing addresses.

I don't think the Fairfax schools will be a major adjustment for your children, unless they have led an extremely sheltered life. NoVa is a very diverse area (both economically and demographically), but it is also very family-oriented and accommodating to newcomers. The debates about schools on this forum are often quite heated, but overall most families are pleased with the public schools and not obsessed with making sure that their children end up attending either Thomas Jefferson (the magnet high school for arts and sciences) or one of a very small handful of other middle and high schools that generally report the highest test scores. Having said that, TJ is considered the top public high school in the entire country, so many parents and children do believe that it is a goal worth aiming for. Similarly, while Ivy League schools may be a goal for some, the majority of Fairfax graduates go on to attend state universities and colleges such as UVa, Virginia Tech, William and Mary, James Madison and George Mason, or local community colleges. The state universities are not as highly politicized as in California, although one local concern is that NoVa students are at a competitive disadvantage in gaining admission to some state schools compared to students from other parts of the state.

Ah yes, the weather. We do get four seasons here. On the other hand, dogs look funny panting in the heat and enjoy playing in the snow. So do three boys - just make sure they get plenty of water!

Last edited by JD984; 03-17-2009 at 12:11 PM..
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Old 03-17-2009, 12:53 PM
 
907 posts, read 2,915,152 times
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Default Lived in east bay before

[quote=Olivia3boys;7923280]Any Northern Virginia residents who have also lived in California? How do you think the adjustment will be for me?***

---We loved the area. S.F. was a great weekend train ride for us. I think you are also e.bay, right? If you're right in nova, you'll have the benefit of not really needing a car. If you go further our to Oakton/Tyson's area, you will need a car. Trade-offs to be made there. I also have 4 kids--two in school and I love being able to walk the younger one to school. The schools are very good in this area, but each community school will have some sort of edge over another. There are language immersion schools, charter schools and science based schools. You'll be looking for elementary and middle schools, right? The area is lacking in all boy's school's here. You have to go to Md. or D.C. for that. While school's test scores can give you critical information, it really pays to visit the school's you're considering. Don't rely on web ratings for schools. Make your own judement in person.---


***Also--believe it or not--we can get way more for our housing $$ in NOVA than in the SF Bay Area. No sticker shock for us; we are delighted to look at what kind of house $700K gets you in NOVA! Our CA house is worth $700K but has no basement, no yard, only 2000 sq ft. I'm blown away by what $700K gets in NOVA.***

--You have to consider your trade-offs. You probablly can get some land further out, but you'll need cars to get around. If you go with NOVA, you won't need two cars. Houses in NOVA hold their value. $700 "might" get you an older house in an older community probablly in an area that you'll have to drive to the metro. I think you should try to look at some realtor online house pix to see if you'd mind an older style house out here. There's a lot of older, fugly houses, so know what you'd be getting into. Arlington has some gorgeous new homes--or renovations that look newer. You and your husband could walk minutes to the metro line and leave the car at home in NOVA. Those are going to be 1 million. Btw. I thought the D.C. metro area was the silicon valley of the east?__


--On a side note, when we were in Ca. I was shocked when I tried to make hair or doctor's apt. and was told there was an opening in 2 months. Dr.'s apt's here can get booked here, so get a pediatrician as soon as you get here. It's no where as bad here as it was there. Hair apt's are easy to come by and many salons competing for your business.

--Oh, and the weather. It does get hot and humid here, but I remember some hot days in no. cal, too. I really think you get used to it. Kids adapt, and there are community pools, spray parks, etc. Shovelling snow takes place maybe once a year. And then it almost seems to be a novelty to most kids. My kids lived in the desert in Az and they adjusted. I think you're underestimating a child's apadptability. Materialism is rampant everywhere. Can't keep kids away from it. I thought it was pretty bad in California, but not the worst I've seen. I don't think NOVA or the area is by any means bad in that regard. I think kids see their parents working long and hard hours to give them a decent life. My teen has some really great friends that I'm very pleased with as a mother!
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Old 03-17-2009, 01:32 PM
 
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I'd agree that Vienna and Oakton on the north side of Route-123 would sound pretty close to right up your alley. There are some very nice homes here, many with more than a half-acre to play on, some with much more. Many will also be above the $700K mark, but many will not. Very good schools no matter where you are (no, not really cut-throat), close to shopping, and at least reasonably close to Metro.

The scarcity of pools is in part driven by the multitude of private neighborhood swim or swim and tennis clubs in the area. Swim & Dive is a pretty big sport here, and there are more than a hundred of these private pools in NOVA. Cardinal Hill, Lakevale Estates, and Oakton are three that are in this general area. They are great places for kids in the summer, but most pools do have waiting lists. At Lakevale, I think you have to live in the community, but elsewhere not. The county rec centers (such as Oak Marr) are good for winter swimming.

IT jobs will indeed be concentrated along and around the Dulles Corridor (I-267). Easily reachable from the Vienna/Oakton area. There is also a smaller but still signficant cluster along I-270 in Montgomery County, MD. That would be more difficult, but not impossible to reach from Vienna/Oakton.

Politically, there is some of everything, and since a sizable slice of folks come with government connections, political diversity is kind of expected. Everybody gets on pretty well with everybody. No Hatfield's and McCoy's.

Otherwise, there is some of everything and everybody here. Pretty much no matter what you like, you can find it if you go looking...
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Old 03-17-2009, 07:04 PM
 
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I'm originally from the east bay (Fremont to be exact) and I moved to the DC area several years ago. Looks like you live in Livermore. I used to pass by it on my to Tracy. So I know your neck of the woods pretty well.

I think there are two things that you will miss about the bay area - the mild winters or the lack thereof, and the natural scenery with the moutains and ocean.

If you can get by those two parts I think you will find the DC area a much better place once you get comfortable. Especially when it comes to the cost of living.

The schools in Nova are one of the best in the country. I wouldn't worry about the student competition to IV leage schools while your kids are in high school. Most kids at that age are just kids, even if they're getting ready to graduate.

Livermore gets pretty hot durring the summer so if you can adjust to the humidity in DC during the summer it shouldn't be that bad. The humidity can be kind of choking when first introduced, but you get used to it pretty quick. Plus it's good for the skin.

From what I remember of Livermore, Nova is going to be much more modern and more upscale. In terms of a comparison between SF proper and DC proper, I think DC is slightly more urban than SF. DC lacks the skyscrapers of SF, but makes up for it in its downtown size. DC's downtan is the third largest downtown - after NYC and Chicago. In fact, if one was to count the government buildings in downtown DC, then it would be the second biggest downtown after NYC - in terms of commercial office space.

You also have many urban amenities in the Maryland DC suburbs - and of course Baltimore.

Best part of DC is its close proximity to so many different places. If you're seeking an urban fix, NYC is only 4 hours away. I've made it to NYC and back to the DC area in a day - all while spending at least 8 hours in NYC. Yeah it makes a long day, but it's easily done. And even if you combine all of California's urban areas into one, it will never compare to NYC. Also you have so many other places so close by:

Baltimore - 40 minutes
Philly - 2 hours
Atlantic City - 2.5 hours
VA Beach - 2.5 hours
Williamsburg - 2 hours
and so on and so forth

Like I said, as long as you get by the mild weather part and natural scenery part, you will like it. You do have natural scenery in the DC area - but the mountains are on a smaller scale, and the ocean is a 2 hour drive. You can compensate for it by driving to the chesapeake - 30 mintues - but it's not the ocean. Or you can drive to the Shenendoah in Virginia - 1 hour - but it's slightly on a smaller scale.

Overall, since you're coming from Livermore, I think it will be a very easy adjustment for the better.
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Old 03-17-2009, 07:45 PM
 
Location: Washington, DC
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Default food for thought

Quote:
Originally Posted by Olivia3boys View Post
My husband will most likely work in the high-tech "Silicon Valley of VA" area. .
Or you could call the silicon valley the Dulles Corridor of the Bay Area.
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