Feb 3, 2023 - Real Estate

Real house hunts: Suburban sprawl

Fiancés Evan Nielson and John Diaz.

Fiancés Evan Nielson (L) and John Díaz. Photo: Evan Nielson

D.C.’s pandemic market has been bewildering for buyers and sellers — from low-inventory sparking bidding wars to high mortgage rates drying up the competition

Why it matters: We reached out to subscribers to learn about their homebuying journeys. We’ll bring you their stories, each at different price points, over the next few weeks. 

These first-time buyers want to spread out

👋 Who: Event planner Evan Nielson and his fiancé John Díaz, an IT manager, rented a Pentagon City apartment for most of the pandemic, but last summer the pair decided it was time to buy something of their own.

“We enjoy collecting and building LEGO sets, so we wanted a place to display those,” Evan tells Axios. More space for themselves was an added bonus, too.

  • Their LEGO collection includes a fully functional rollercoaster and a Star Destroyer.

Evan treks downtown two to three days a week while John works from home. Before they started their home search neither owned a car, and they hoped to keep it that way. 

  • 💰 Budget: $500,000 - $600,000
  • 📍Desired location: Arlington or Alexandria
  • 🔎 Started looking: June 2022
  • ❤️ Wish list: Storage space, transit access, large kitchen

🏡 Option 1: Cozy condo 

  • Two-bedroom, two-bathroom | 880 square feet | Ballston | $579,900
  • Pros: Location, location, location. And tons of closet space.
  • Cons: Pretty small. Didn’t love that it’s on the first floor.
The kitchen of a Ballston condo.
A cozy kitchen to match the condo's cozy vibe. Photo courtesy of the Goodhart Group

🏡 Option 2: New build in the ‘burbs

  • Two-bedroom, two-bathroom | 1,397 square feet | Reston | $555,900
  • Pros: Modern, brand new, and completely updated.
  • Cons: Location, location, location. Reston is far.
A living room inside a newly built condo.
Lots of room to spread out and natural light. Photo courtesy of Evan Nielson

🏡 Option 3: What kitchen dreams are made of 

  • Three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom | 1,642 square feet | Alexandria | $549,000
  • Pros: They loved the kitchen and storage.
  • Cons: Too far from bus and Metro.
The dining area and living room of an Alexandria condo.
Those arches 😍. Photo courtesy of Tyson Le, New Home Image

🎉 Winner: Option 2! Evan and John fell in love with the shiny new Reston condo, paying $555,900 for more space and modern finishes. 

They compromised big-time on location – Evan takes a bus to get to the Metro for his hour-plus commute. And they caved on the car, too, easier for trips to the grocery store in the suburbs.

  • “What we could get out there was way better than what we could get closer downtown,” Evan says of their Reston choice.

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