Old Town Alexandria – Luxury living

Alexandria a special place to live

I am often asked what makes Old Town Alexandria a special place to live.

For starters, it’s the City’s Rich History and Community 

The richness of history in Old Town Alexandria is unparalleled in such a small area. The proximity to the river with boating activities, boutique shopping, and fine dining make Old Town Alexandria a unique destination in the region.

Some history

Alexandria was home to George Washington. His Mount Vernon estate is about ten minutes drive south of Old Town Alexandria along the George Washington Parkway, a beautiful scenic drive.  The city’s architecture style is predominantly colonial with multiple historic row houses.  Recently, luxury modern condominiums have been built on the north side of town with fantastic scenic views of the river.  Like the Oronoco for instance (watch video). There’s also the new Robinson Terminal South being built now (2018). And hopefully, in the future the Robinson Terminal North, if that ever gets approved by the City (fingers crossed)

Walk through the streets of Old Town Alexandria and you will see some fantastic old properties. A busy seaport during colonial times, you can still see many alleys and streets in Old Town  Alexandria paved with rocks which originally served as ballast in the hulls of large ships.

Many famous politicians have entertained at Gadsby’s Tavern, which remains open to this day. Due to its proximity to the Washington DC, you might bump into one or two famous politicians as several of them live in the city or nearby neighborhoods. I remember a fantastic Valentine’s dinner with my husband at our favorite restaurant, Vermillion when to our surprise, the President and the First Lady walked in! Where else would you be able to witness such an event?

I have seen Old Town Alexandria grow over the years with a great number of boutique shops, fabulous restaurants, specialty shops, and a few boutique luxury hotels, along King Street, the main east/west thoroughfare. The most commercially developed area of Old Town Alexandria was east of Washington Street to the waterfront. Over time though, many new shops and restaurants opened west of  Washington Street to the King Street Metro.

Local Facts

In Old Town Alexandria, King Street runs from the King Street Metro Station to the waterfront.  You can walk the seventeen blocks, which is a great way to see the city sights, restaurants and shopping. You can also take the free shuttle, the King Street Trolley, that runs from the Metro station to the waterfront.

The Saturday morning farmers market right on the City Hall’s plaza is worth checking out. It features fine local produce, meats and also local crafts. The Old Town Farmers Market is the oldest running farmers market in the United States dating back to George Washington’s era. Check out my video with author and local resident Tiffany Pache talking about Market Square. Get there early for the first pick of produce and fresh bread and pastries as well as fresh cut flowers.

Old Town Alexandria is a close-knit and pet-friendly community. On a nice day, you will see people walking with their dogs, pushing strollers or just sitting having coffee at multiple coffee/pastry shops. Bikers are a constant, sharing the north/south city streets, with the Mt. Vernon bike trail passing through and across the city parallel to the river bank.


The weather is fair.  Winters are very tolerable with only a few cold weeks. Humid in the summer but bearable, and just great most of the time.

Why buying in Old Town Alexandria

Buyers choose Old Town Alexandria because of the four primary benefits of living here:

  1. Proximity to Washington D.C. makes it an extremely desirable place to live and visit.
  2. Direct access to major highways (495-95) and public transportation makes getting around easy.
  3. Situated by the Potomac River with several marinas and rowing venues. Bike Path and Walkable
  4. Charming historic feel with lots of restaurants and entertainment year round

My Experience living here

I moved to the Washington, DC metropolitan area about 20+ years ago. I lived and worked in Georgetown NW District of Columbia for several years and then bought my first apartment in North Arlington. Washington DC is a destination not only for tourists but for many Americans looking for employment and incredibly active life with so many things to do daily. At the time I chose Arlington, I was looking for a quieter option with more green space yet, close to the city. Although while in Arlington I  kept coming back to Old Town Alexandria, always wondering and dreaming what it would be like to live in a historic town. My passion for architecture, history and city life plus outdoor/water activities were what drew me to the area.

I have been in the “real estate business” for decades. First, as an architect, designing houses for clients and then managing construction. Over time, my husband and I dabbled in real estate, buying and selling properties for ourselves. I started thinking that I should just start doing this professionally and full time to be able to help others realize their dreams.

Old Town Alexandria is divided basically into 4 quadrants some encompassing the waterfront, with each quadrant offering different price and property styles. With such variations in price, style, and amenities, having a local realtor who can answer all your questions, is key in choosing your perfect home, at the right price within your budget.  My local market knowledge helps my clients find their perfect home, in the right place, and within their budget, it gives my clients a unique “peace of mind“ advantage.

Common Home Buyer Questions

Buyers looking in the Metropolitan area, especially in Old Town Alexandria, have similar questions. These questions include:

  1. Parking: Depending on which area of Old Town Alexandria you are looking, parking can be tight. The closer to King Street you are, off street parking becomes more important. King Street and about a block from it,  could be crowded during the summer. Of course, the price for properties in those areas with off street parking comes at a premium, but well worth it.
  2. Flooding: Although regular flooding isn’t an issue, If you are looking for a house next to the river, you need to check the flood zones and consider buying flood insurance.
  3. Renovating: Historic house regulations change and evolve, it is best to check the current city regulations before buying. For instance, at this time, replacing windows in a historic property is not allowed by the architectural review board.
  4. Additions to a historic house: Zoning and building codes are living documents and change over time. You might be able to add to your home, but you will have to be aware of square footage limitations, height limitations, parking regulations and open space area regulations as well. You will also have to present your design to the City, and in many instances, to the ARB as well.
  5. Pet-friendly town? Definitely. You can witness it by just walking the streets, attending the doggy happy hours during the summer months at the Monaco Hotel, visiting multiple dog parks, or the many restaurants that allow al fresco dining with your pet. Visit my YouTube channel for dog parks in town.

Buying Success

My understanding of Old Town Alexandria enables me to help buyers find the right home.  Examples include:

  • Foreign buyer: A referral from a past client put me in contact with a foreign buyer. He called me from overseas looking for an investment property, his requirements included; close to a metro, positive cash flow, and appreciation over a 10 year timeframe. He was not going to travel to the US to see the property, so I had to be his eyes, ears and voice. My confidence and knowledge of the area facilitated the whole process, and earned his trust. I found a terrific investment property for him and he is now ready to buy additional properties and has referred me to other investors.
  • Negotiating skills: In today’s market, appraisal values are lagging behind, the offered prices. As a buyer agent, I fight for my clients to get the lowest price possible. I negotiated and was able to get a house for one of my first time home buyer’s even though the appraised value was 10% below market value, they  got a fabulous property at an incredible price. My knowledge of the market and my negotiation skills helped them secure a gem which they enjoy to this day.
  • Finding the right home: After an initial consultation and just a few house tours, I was able to pin point the desired property for my clients. My design background helps me understand my client’s needs, with heightened listening skills, which help me fine tune what is really important for my clients. For my design clients I create conceptual drawings that turn their visions into reality. My architectural skills plus my real estate knowledge allows me to quickly understand my clients needs and enable them to envision and find the perfect home.

Final Buying Thoughts

The two guidelines for buying inOld Town Alexandria are:

  • Know the quadrant/area you are buying and understand the differences. Pros and Cons of each
  • Be aware of the permit and architectural guidelines that are specific to a historic area such as Old Town Alexandria.

What to Know Before Selling a House in Old Town Alexandria

Find Your Uniqueness

Living inOld Town Alexandria could be about lifestyle, historic charm, luxury living, proximity to DC and waterfront, among other reasons. Highlight and understand what is unique about a property, then market to the segment of the population that is attracted to any of those unique features. Fantastic professional photography highlighting architectural details, clever staging in smaller spaces, or perhaps, just lifestyle focused specific videos, will ensure the right buyer will approach the property rather than just the curious lookers.

Many buyers look inOld Town Alexandria when they decide to move to Alexandria. They are attracted to the charm, walkability and general easy living lifestyle. Old Town Alexandria’s proximity to DC, and easy access to the residential neighborhoods of Georgetown and Fox Hall, Downtown and Capitol Hill, Metro access, great dining, and shopping, all within walking distance, make Old Town Alexandria so desirable. Selling here is a question of focusing on those characteristics and how a particular house achieves your requirements.

The reason that most people look into moving to Old Town Alexandria is probably the same reasons that drew you here. Augmenting those reasons and marketing the other positive aspects makes selling a property in Alexandria a great experience.

Common Seller Questions

Sellers often ask me what they can do to prepare their home to sell quickly, at the highest price.  Their common questions are:

  • How long will it take to sell my home?
    • The time it takes to sell is an exercise in statistics at a specific point in time. Looking at different price points (by location) and the average days on the market gives a good idea of the length of time a specific price point home will stay on the market.
  • Do I need to stage my home?
    • The short answer is yes. I am a true believer in staging. A staged home sells faster than non-staged. With my designer/architect background, and also a Stagger Certification. I have helped people stage their homes with their own furniture and accessories, saving both money and time.
  • Do I need to hold an open house?
    • Not all the time, it depends on the market. Most of the time it is not necessary, but in hot markets, you can sell a house on the spot.
  • Should I show the house by appointment only?
    • Many of the buyers coming to Old Town Alexandria are from out of town. Coordinating with their schedules while on a weekend looking for houses is detrimental to an “easy experience for them.” If you can I recommend placing a lockbox for easy showing.
  • Should I fix the leaking faucet, the broken lamp, the windows that do not operate well, etc?
    • The answer is yes, yes and yes. Buyers will focus on the negatives to mentally reduce the offered price. These things also give the impression that a house has not been taken care of. If those little things have not been addressed then, what else is lurking behind the walls?

Getting Multiple Offers

Price always makes a difference in the number of offers you receive. There is a fine line between a low price and market value. Market knowledge is extremely important when setting the asking price. A below market price will always attract multiple buyers and generate multiple showings, which equal multiple offers. Strategic Marketing includes the right price plus a series of preliminary steps to position the house in the best possible way.

Stories of Selling

My experience has helped me sell numerous properties for sellers with different needs, but with the common goal of netting the highest price.  The following are examples of my successes:

  1. I was approached by a seller who was at the brink of bankruptcy with the only option being to short sell the property per other realtor’s advice. After a thorough market analysis, I decided I could market her house in a specific way and attract the perfect buyer. We were able to sell the house within a week at a price that paid all his debts and allowed the seller to move on with his life.
  2. I helped another seller get above asking price within a day. He did not believe it could happen that quickly. My approach to marketing starts immediately once the listing agreement is signed. I do not wait for a house to be put on the MLS, I start by contacting my large network of buyers and fellow agents and market the property.
  3. A seller had decided to try to sell her house on her own. After several attempts and mainly low offers, I stepped in and pointed out a few deficiencies in the house that, if fixed would bring multiple offers.  Once I took the listing, I started marketing the house and before it hit the MLS, we received a full asking price offer in cash, an increase of a six-digit figure above what she was able to get on her own,

Final Selling Thoughts

The three golden rules of selling a property in Old Town Alexandria are the price well for the area, stage the home and market to the community and the myriad of out of town buyers that would love to live in this charming city.

Additional Information

Call me for information on TOP vendors. I am always updating my “Circle of Excellence” house professionals that help with all aspects of house remodeling.

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Patricia S Harris
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