Because of Prince William's increasing affluence, the modest homes in the military town of Quantico can sometimes be a tough sell. But real estate agent Maura Sullivan has figured out a way to varnish the town's reputation and woo potential buyers.
Here's her ad for a $255,000 Quantico home:
"WHAT A HOME! Stunning renovated Bungalow home in gated community. New Kitchen, baths & floors. 2B w/3rd easily. Three walls are already up. Garage."
Quantico? A gated community? You bet.
To unsuspecting readers, Sullivan's listing seems to offer an amenity that is more often available in upscale subdivisions in the western part of the county.
To those who know that a 95-square-mile Marine Corps base surrounds the town of Quantico -- and that very young, very fit, very armed Marines require you to show identification before entering the base -- the listing can trigger a slight double take.
"I've had some serious buyers call me and ask, 'What do you mean by a gated community?' " Sullivan said.
"I cracked up on that. I've got a wild sense of humor," said Sullivan, a singer-songwriter who once toured with folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary in the 1980s but has recently started selling homes.
Even though the term may be, well, loaded and carry connotations of exclusivity, Sullivan said potential buyers in Northern Virginia want that kind of security. So many local listings advertise homes within a gated community that Sullivan said she could not squander a chance to use the term, even if the Quantico bungalow is in a town guarded by Marines holding M-16s instead of a less lethal private security guard standing behind a gate.
"There are several ways to look at it. It's prestige. And you're weeding out solicitors and you're not dealing with riffraff, people who just come in and leave flyers," said Sullivan, who lives in the Woodbridge area. "Realtors know, though. They just chuckle when they see it."
Lt. Col. Rick Long, a Marine Corps base spokesman at Quantico, was having some difficulty with the listing at first. "I don't know of any gated community in Quantico. What's the address of the home? I don't know how to respond," he said.
After grasping the joke, Long was somewhat dismissive. Quantico, where the average price for a home is about $196,000, is pretty unpretentious.
"It's quaint," Long said. "It's very small-town American."
On Sullivan's Web site, at www.umatter.biz, where she can write longer descriptions than she can for the newspaper, she advertises a Woodbridge home whose seller had joked to her that she and her husband went through a lot of stress preparing it for the market.
Sullivan, always thinking about the next killer line, inserted the following at the very end of the listing: "I promise, you will need look no further! Come in and you'll know you're home!!! By the way, the wife says the husband conveys :)"