Are you thinking about moving to military-friendly Arlington Virginia?
If you are planning a military move because of a duty assignment or are simply looking to move to the Northern Virginia area because of its strong military population, I highly recommend looking in North Arlington, Alexandria, or Falls Church. As a native of Arlington Virginia, I am proud that Arlington is home to more than 120,000 civilian veterans! Our strong military community is part of what makes Arlington such a great place to live. In fact, Niche ranked Arlington the “Best City to Live in America.” Arlington earned the ranking for its stellar school system, high quality of life, great dining scene, and urban-suburban walkability, among other things. Additionally, Arlington has excellent proximity to some of the most prestigious military bases in the world, including Andrews AFB, Fort Bevloir, Fort Detrick, Fort McNair, Fort Meade, JB Anacostia – Bolling, JB Myer – Henderson Hall, Marine Barracks, Naval Medical Center, Naval Research Laboratory, Navy Yard, NRO Chantilly, Quantico, The Pentagon, and Walter Reed. When moving to the Arlington area, there are a number of important things to consider when purchasing a home, but first, a few fun facts about Arlington, courtesy of newsroom.arlingtonva.com
- Arlington’s “daytime” population — counting people traveling here to work — swells to more than 300,000.
- 22 percent of Arlington households are households with children.
- 55 percent of Arlingtonians live within 1 mile of a Metro station.
- 98 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park.
Understanding Northern Virginia by County
So, how to get started. When planning your move to the Arlington area there are a few things that are helpful to know about the culture of Northern Virginia. In particular, it’s becomes much easier to “sort out” Northern Virginia once you understand the counties. What constitutes “Northern Virginia,” also locally referred to as NOVA or NoVA, is often loosely described and hotly debated, but most locals will agree that “Northern Virginia Proper” is Fairfax County, Arlington County, Alexandria City, and Falls Church. “Greater Northern Virginia” is Fairfax County, Arlington County, Alexandria City, Falls Church, Loudoun County, and Prince William County. Statistically speaking, Northern Virginia, according to Wikipedia for example, extends outward even further toward Fredericksburg and Winchester City. Thus, when looking at real estate online it can be confusing and hard to understand where to begin. For example, Stafford and Fredericksburg are loosely considered Northern Virginia, though most locals realize they are not (even if Wikipedia says otherwise). The point here is get to know the counties. “Northern Virginia Proper” is the prime location to live in, especially inside the 495 Capital Beltway, because of its proximity to Washington D.C. The school systems are stellar (some of the best in the United States), but housing is older and very expensive. Loudoun County is also a very wealthy area and offers excellent schools but is further west meaning your commute into the city will be much greater. You will find newer homes and more for your money, however much of Loudoun is considered prime real estate as well (Ashburn for example). Prince William County is south of Washington D.C. and also features some nice neighborhoods and school districts, but packs a hefty commute up the heavily trafficked I-66 and I-95 corridor. Currently, I-95 is probably slightly worse in terms of commute though I-66 isn’t far behind (and there’s talk of adding Express Lanes to I-66). I-95 also features variable rate Express Lanes that are often astronomically expensive (note: the 495 Capital Beltway also features variable rate Express Lanes). However, there are VRE and Metro options that extend west and south beyond Northern Virginia Proper.
To recap the proximity point with a different example, it may seem strange, but even though Virginia and Maryland are close together, locals consider the states to be two different worlds. It is not uncommon to hear a Northern Virginian scoff at the idea of driving to Maryland! Or to hear an Arlingtonian scoff at the idea of driving to Loudoun County. The regions may be interconnected but Northern Virginia Proper, Greater Northern Virginia, Statistical Northern Virginia–and even Maryland are very different worlds. The main reasons for this are commuting traffic, cost of living, and population density. So even though areas are close together on a map, travelling to and from can be very difficult.
Now that you have a better sense of how to sort through the counties, here are some of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a new home.
Access to Multiple Commuting Options is Paramount
Purchasing a property in Arlington County offers you easy access to the Orange Line Metro, which is one of the best ways to get around the Northern Virginia-Washington D.C. Metro area. Living in Arlington also means you have the added incentive of significantly shorter commutes to work (if you want to drive), which believe me, for some people is a huge perk. With that said, you will want to check the parking situation at your workplace, assuming your workplace provides parking. It is very common in the Washington D.C. metro area for employers to only allot a limited number of parking spaces to employees (i.e. the employee to parking spot ratio is not equal) meaning you could be stuck shuttling or busing in, which can be a rude awakening on your first day! So be sure to check. Additionally, you have to factor the cost of commuting which can include metro cost, tolls, VRE, parking, buses, and gas versus the price of the home. As outlined in my section above about analyzing Northern Virginia by county, basically the further you live from Washington D.C., the more affordable the housing gets (in theory), but at the expense of longer commute, high toll rates, and sometimes school districts with lower ratings (greatschools.org). There is also the issue of where your spouse or partner works and accommodating their work commute as well. It can be challenging to find a neighborhood that benefits everyone (and the BAH budget), but don’t worry, it is possible! In fact, many people are able to find single family homes that suit their needs, while many others opt for townhomes and condos because they simply don’t want the long commutes. It’s a tough decision but a doable one.
Choose Your Neighborhood Wisely
If you are looking to live in a military-friendly community in Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, or Falls Church there are a few that are particularly popular with veterans. Some of those towns, neighborhoods, and subdivisions (in alphabetical order) include but are not limited to:
- Ballston-Virginia Square
- Burgundy Woods
- Cameron Station
- Falls Church City
- Hayfield Farms
- Hollin Hills
- Leeway Overlee
Get To Know the Weather
In terms of seasons, Northern Virginia enjoys all four, as in you can expect beautiful springs, crisp falls, relatively mild winters, and humid summers! However, don’t be surprised if it’s 70 degrees one day and 40 degrees the next. There are definitely some nuances. For example, if there’s even a hint of snow, you can expect a snow day. Unlike other east coast cities, Northern Virginia has a tendency to “call it” and close down the Federal Government and schools and issue telework options. Now if you’re essential personnel, that’s a different story and you’ll likely be trucking in, though you should enjoy improved free-flowing traffic on those days (minus the plows). However, for the most part we enjoy some pretty nice weather. Virginia is also rich in varying foliage varieties and features an abundance of beautiful trees and flowers. The weather in Virginia tends to be quite humid as well and we get our fair share of rain, so be sure to check the flood zones when purchasing a new home. Additionally, seasonal allergies tend to affect some people quite significantly, so be wary of that as well.
Choose Your Realtor Wisely
I’ll be honest with you. When choosing a Realtor, you really need to choose a Realtor that specializes in the area where you are trying to buy (or sell) because you’re going to want that edge in the competitive Northern Virginia market where properties move FAST. And of course, now you’re expecting me to say I’m the best. Well, I’ll tell you, my client service goals are pretty specific and I’m a seasoned veteran. I’m not bragging here–I’m just very experienced and know that you have to be extremely proactive in the Arlington and Northern Virginia markets! The best thing I can tell folks looking to perform their due diligence is to just read my testimonials! And if that’s not enough, I had a successful career in law enforcement prior to becoming a broker, and I also come from a real estate family. The majority of my clients are in Federal Law Enforcement, Foreign Service, military, federal government, or are corporate relocation clients–and many are first time buyers.
In all honesty, I know the market because I’ve lived here all my life. With me, you can find the real specialized help that you’re looking for (without all the rigmarole most realtors put clients through). I’m a straightforward guy and will listen earnestly to your needs, and then help you meet them. When I’m not working you might find me doing CrossFit, hanging with my family and friends, enjoying a good craft beer with buds, or traveling.
Bonus, I’m pretty social too! Follow me on Facebook @Brad Winkelmann Real Estate Arlington VA, Orange Line Metro.