Correction: Real estate agent Thai Hung Nguyen was incorrectly identified in the story. He is an agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Premier.

As buyers look for homes and inventory across the Washington region lags behind demand, a purchase might require more than pulling out your checkbook. You may have to increase the down payment, accept the seller’s rusty lawn furniture or even forgo an inspection.

Paul and Gwen Winter slept in their car in a forest on a hot, mosquito-laden summer night so they could be at the head of the line when the sales office for the Grove at Huntley Meadows in Alexandria, Va., opened.

“We were driving down Route 1 and saw a sign — ‘New Homes by Centex’ — pointing into the woods. We followed it to a trailer posted with a sign: ‘Opening Sat. First Come First Served.’ I called Centex and was told: ‘We open at 9:00. First come, first served,” Gwen Winter said.

“‘I guess we better get ready,’ I said to my husband,” she added. “We went home. Made peanut butter sandwiches, packed water and grabbed a flashlight, got back in the car. And there was already someone there when we arrived. By the end of the evening, 50 to 60 cars were in the dark woods. Saturday morning the sales people came. The guy ahead of us got one end unit. We bought the other. Most people walked away empty-handed.”


Community life: A dozen years later, the Grove at Huntley Meadows has evolved into a community of 215 townhouses and 70 single-family homes with green yards, shade trees and flowers.

Many homes look to the woods from the rear and a few face trees front and back. “I don’t have to cover any of my windows,” Gwen Winter said. “There’s no one to look in.”

Three-level townhouses with pinkish-red brick or cream-colored siding blend with the single-family houses. Welcome signs and flags dot front yards. Many homes have rear decks, some fenced-in yards. All have one- or two-car garages, and extra cluster parking is scattered.

“We get a lot of support in the neighborhood for keeping the property nice. And we continuously monitor the landscape and replace trees,” said David Mikkelson, who is president of the neighborhood homeowners association and has lived there with his wife, Kathleen, since 2008.

One resident who is intent on beautifying her property is Louise Finkle. Her driveway is a botanical garden with pots of bushes and mini fruit trees, including fig and blackberry. “We just got a garden plot at Mount Vernon after four years on the waiting list,” she said.

The pool and clubhouse opened Memorial Day weekend. Families can rent the space for children’s parties. Volunteers staff committees for other social get-togethers, such as wine tastings and the annual block party.

The Architectural Standards Committee and the homeowners association board review plans for exterior design changes.

“We try to keep the original aesthetics for consistency. You always hear horror stories of HOAs and how strict they can be,” said Mikkelson. “But people want to have a little creativity so we’re not so hard on anything. Prospective buyers can go to our website and see our governing documents. Everything is open and everyone has a voice.”

What’s nearby: Huntley Meadows Park covers almost 1,500 acres and is an outdoor mecca. More than 200 bird species have been sighted.

The Mount Vernon Plaza shopping center is home to about 75 stores. Home Depot, Walmart and Costco are close. “On Saturday, when fliers come out, I determine where I’m going for strawberries and who has the best deal on avocados,” Gwen Winter said.


Justin Allen, squatting, plays with his children, Noah and Gabriel, while his wife Melissa and Cory Forbrook watch. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

Living there: The Grove at Huntley Meadows, Zip code 22306, lies in the Hybla Valley and is hidden in the trees, which “is one of the appealing things,” said Mikkelson.

The community is bordered by Huntley Meadows Park on the west, the southern ends of Lindberg Drive, Grey Goose Way and White Heron Trail on the south; the opposite ends of those roads on the north; and the houses on White Heron Trail on the east.

“The subdivision has a quick turnaround. From listing to contract is 23 days,” said Thai Hung Nguyen, real estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Premier. “There’s a high demand for the area and not much for sale.”

According to Nguyen, five properties are for sale, ranging from a three-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse with a single-car garage for $399,000 to a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse with a single-car garage for $450,000.

Three properties are under contract, ranging from a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse with single-car garage for $420,000 to a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse with double-car garage for $490,000.

In the past year, 20 properties sold, ranging from a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse with single-car garage for $380,000 to a five-bedroom, five-bathroom single-family home with double-car garage for $660,000.

Townhouse owners pay a $114 per month homeowners fee; owners of ­single-family houses pay $93 per month.

Schools: Hybla Valley Elementary, Sandburg Middle, West Potomac High.

Transit: The Grove at Huntley Meadows is off Virginia Route 1/Richmond Highway. It’s close to Virginia routes 633 and 611 and eight miles south of the Capital Beltway/Interstate 495. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is nine miles away, Washington Dulles International Airport is 35 miles away. It’s about a half-hour drive to Washington.

Crime: According to CrimeReports.com, no crimes were reported in the past six months.


Children play in the pool at The Grove at Huntley Meadows. (Benjamin C. Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

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