Edward Merkli, president of Merkli, McGuire and Merkli Realty, has been a real estate broker and in business for himself for the past nine years. His companies concentrate heavily on the Mount Vernon area, and he has been in this area for thirteen years.
I've lived in Kirkside approximately thirteen years because of location. It was the remains of a dairy farm, open fields. The Hollin Meadows School was not built. They had three hones started on Sherwood Hall Lane. The corner house that Dr. Atcheson occupies was the model house and I had that for about three years selling lots and homes to be built as well as existing homes that were going up. There was nothing up on top of the hill in Kirkside at all, just an open field. Sherwood Hall Lane was widened only in front of Kirkside at the time it was built and the rest of it was one lane in each direction. A bridge out at the little creek near Fort Hunt Road was only a one lane bridge for the first couple of years I lived down there. They widened the bridge and finally, after a lot of fighting, the highway department widened Sherwood Hall Lane. I felt that there wouldn’t be a lot of congestion because of Fort Belvoir and also the Potomac River. Because of the river the population would be split so half the people would go into D.C. to work and the other half to Fort Belvoir. It wouldn’t be as heavily congested as the western section of Fairfax, where most of the people would go straight into the district.
I had been in strip mining in West Virginia and they converted to oil and we lost sales for coal so I had to find another type of employment. I came to this area, worked in construction and I saw all the real estate signs, realizing that the government and military transferred quite often. I knew that real estate would be a good business to get into. I started out originally as Merkli Realty, started Merkli, McGuire in 1970, and about a year later Howard Maddox joined the firm. We opened an office on Washington Street in Alexandria and Mr. Maddox wanted to buy it out so we sold that office, and we lost a good location. Then we had the other office at 1302 Lafayette Drive here in the Mount Vernon area.
We formed Merkli, McGuire originally because we wanted to have two brokers so that we would have coverage all the time. If I wanted to go vacation I could without worrying, or if Mr. McGuire wanted to, he could without worrying. Opening an office with him relieved the pressure somewhat. Before I started in business I'd sell, by myself, three houses a month. Now we're selling on the average of one a day. We had six Million Dollar Sales Club agents this year, and one of them has been in the Million Dollar Sales Club for five years.
When I first started in real estate, you could get a home reasonably priced. They've quadrupled in price now, so it makes it very difficult for young people to buy a home. They have to have a combined income, both husband and wife working, in order to qualify to make the payments on the high mortgage rates. Back then people were complaining that six percent was considered high interest rate on the home mortgages. Now we have ten and a quarter up to eleven and it might possibly get higher. People would wait for the rate to drop. Now they see that they can't wait for the interest rate to drop because the prices of the homes are going up so fast they can see where they can afford to pay the higher interest rate in order to get ahead of the price increase. It isn't like it used to be, buyers sitting around waiting for the interest rate to drop. As they've realized in the past, while they were waiting for the rate to drop, the house price range was getting away from them and it cost them more money in waiting.
Real estate people have been accused of escalating prices and in some instances it's factual, but I've always tried to price homes with a price that's not inflated. A lot of it is also reproduction cost -materials, lumbers, and home construction in general. Everything has escalated, even wages and land prices have become very expensive. In this area a half acre lot is difficult to find, but when you do, you can't find one under $35,000.The home that I'm in in Kirkside was $32,750 and now it's close to $120,000. So like I said earlier they've quadrupled in price. Our average price range of homes now that we're selling is about $80,000 and it's very difficult to find a house in the Mount Vernon area for less. I don't think they'll level off because the first five or six years I was in real estate I felt that they had to level off but in this length of time I'm convinced that they will just continue to escalate in price.
They (prices) increased back in the sixties at about 6% growth increase and then about two years ago they took a quick jump, some of them 12 to 15%. But now they are more like 10% increase. The D.C. area makes them naturally higher because we do have a lot of people with higher incomes who can afford them, and the demand is greater because of the government. You’re reasonably close in so you can get higher prices in this general area than you can somewhere like Woodbridge or farther out.
Question:Did you hear any stories about this area when
you first moved here?
The builder dug up five graves up on top Lookout Court, right at the end overlooking Sherwood Hall Lane, and the Smithsonian Institute came out and opened some of the graves and found that after checking the bone structure and the skeleton lying in the ground that it was slaves from back in slavery time. The George Mason family owned this particular area. Of course before that, it was part of George Washington’s farm. They built homes out over that point where they dug up the wooden caskets or boxes the slaves were buried in. They were pretty well deteriorated, but still had some old rusty nails and skeletons. One other story that I was told was that down near Engleside, Bernice Carter Davis, who was a descendant of the first real estate broker in Virginia, found and uncovered a lot of handmade bricks, and her determination was it was the remains of George Washington’s eight sided barn. Of course she died before she really got that as a fact, but that was her idea.