As landscape architects, we know that elegant landscaping contributes to the appeal and market value of a home. But how does the natural setting of a community contribute to its appeal?
We set out to answer this question in a four-part series of blog articles. The previous three installments explored the fine points of Chevy Chase, Potomac, and Great Falls. For this article, the fourth and final installment in the series, we are focusing on Loudoun County.
Loudoun County covers a vast area from its historic sections to its open country areas. Eastern Loudoun County is more built up with residential development that is oriented toward Washington. The western side appeals more to residents who enjoy a sense of seclusion and privacy. Exclusive communities such as Creighton Farms and Grenata Preserve, among many others, have emerged to take advantage of the natural beauty of area.
We asked Francie Baroody of TTR Sotheby’s International Real Estate and Dave Jones of Long & Foster to describe the appeal of some of the most popular Loudoun County landscapes and communities. Here is what Francie and Dave had to tell us:
Are there aesthetic attributes built into the natural topography of Loudoun County communities that add value?
Francie Baroody: People say that in real estate the value is all about “location, location, location.” But in Loudoun County, I would couple that with “views, views, views.” A great portion of eastern Loudoun County flanks the Potomac River. There are some spectacular vistas in a community like River Creek that overlooks the river. You’ve got gorgeous, well maintained, landscaped views as well as privacy in that community.
Dave Jones: Creighton Farms comes to mind. It is a rolling hills community. While the lots may be flat, the surrounding land is hilly. The views are spectacular, and you can see for miles from some of the highest points. Grenata Preserve is another one that was developed by the same company. It doesn’t have hills, but the homes are set in either old farmland or woods on large three to four acres lots. Most of them back to trees and some homes are cut into a grove of trees at the end of a long driveway.
Do constructed elements such as the shape or size of lots, positioning of homes on the lot, or the layout of streetscapes affect desirability and value?
Francie: The streets in River Creek are all lined with beautiful, natural trees. The developer didn’t go in and mow down the entire area and stick a couple of nursery trees in. They’ve enhanced that with walking paths along much of the development, flanked with beautiful landscaping. It’s aesthetically one of the prettiest communities I’ve seen in the area. A lot of the homes are sited so that residents have a view of the river beyond the treeline. I think there’s something therapeutic about having that overlook and view of water in the distance.
Dave: Creighton Farms is laid out along a winding road that follows the topography of the land, rather than just being a typical subdivision with a grid system of roads. And a lot of the houses are set back from the road so that they’re private. All the houses are impressive. Just driving through, the community is a sales tool in itself.
Are the natural setting and greenscape that surrounds a community a factor in the decision to buy an individual home in it?
Francie: Absolutely. I had a River Creek listing that had a water view. Folks that lost out on this listing called me afterward and said, “I know there are three homes across the street but call me when there’s something else with this view.”
Dave: With all of the millions of homes nearby, Creighton is in a very secluded area. You don’t see any other subdivisions or houses. You see mountains and rolling hills. It’s like they dropped this community right in the middle of the area. Grenata has that same kind of seclusion. It’s close to suburbia and the town of Leesburg, but it’s set back off a long road that leads into what was once a farm. People like this sort of natural setting. They don’t even have sidewalks there. There are walking trails but no sidewalks.
From your observations of how buyers react, what makes a great neighborhood/community?
Francie: In the case of River Creek, it’s a gated community, so right from the onset there’s privacy. There’s no through traffic. The reaction of most people when you drive through it with them—it’s the wow factor that gets them.
Dave: People want neighbors, but they don’t want neighbors right next to them. Privacy is important to them, and that privacy can be created by the distance between houses, and by landscaping.
For individual homes, which is more important to a buyer: front yard landscaping or backyard?
Francie: From what I see from buyers, the front landscaping is a big factor. I think sometimes the backyard can wow them with a pool or gorgeous landscaping and trees. But that first impression is the front of the home. Also, I think some people have their own ideas and vision for what their backyard can be. Sometimes a vanilla backyard isn’t as much of a deterrent because they think, “Well, this is where I can put the pool. This is where I can put my flowering cherry tree”.
Dave: Most people see the backyard as an extension of the house. They have significant outdoor entertainment areas. Even though the community has a pool, people put in their own pools and hot tubs. People who live in these communities tend to do significant entertaining, and that’s a big part of the desire to customize their own backyard landscaping.
What are your favorite Loudoun communities? Why do you like them?
Francie: I have so many favorites. I love historic downtown Leesburg and downtown Middleburg. Beacon Hill is also wonderful with rolling hills and large lots. Creighton Farms is a gorgeous golf club community with phenomenal homes. Actually, I live in historic Leesburg. We walk everywhere. I like the variety. When I walk downtown, not only do I pass and talk to a lot of neighbors, but I also see a lot of people that are tourists. We get into conversations. It’s nice that they find our little town charming, and it’s fun.
Dave: There is a gated community called River Creek has a golf course and country club along the Potomac River. Many of the homes back up to the golf course or overlook the river. Another thing that makes the community attractive is that five different builders developed it–so there is architectural variety among the homes.
Preserving and Enhancing Native Landscape
In the more desirable areas of Loudoun County, it turns out that developers didn’t simply clear the landscape and take everything down. Native trees that were existent on the land were preserved and included in the planning as they went in to build a development.
Some of the more exclusive and secluded communities have walking paths throughout instead of sidewalks along the road. The absence of sidewalks along roadways tends to soften the transition between the road and the landscape.
In homes with large, private lots homeowners customize their landscaping, particularly in the backyards to create outdoor environments for entertaining guests.
What are the characteristics of a neighborhood that make it valuable—not just in dollars and cents—but valuable because it is a place that people want to be? We’ve found that aside from the beauty of homes, landscaping, and constructed streetscapes, the surrounding landscape itself has qualities that attract and inspire.
If you’d like to learn more about how native landscapes and landscape design interact, start with the first article in our series: The Landscapes of Aspirational Neighborhoods. And if you’d like to talk about improving your front or backyard landscaping, feel free to schedule a consultation with one of our landscape architects.