Ask anyone who lives in Vienna or McLean, and they will tell you about the impressive number of new homes being built.
Many are custom homes being built for long-time owners, but more often it is an investor or builder scraping off an old house to build a new, semi-custom house to sell.
What is happening here in Vienna, McLean, or Falls Church, is an economy where there are far more employers than there were twenty years ago. Companies such as Capital One, Nestle, EY, Northrop Grumman, AWS, INOVA and Accenture have diversified the employment picture beyond just government agencies.
In sharp contrast to my clients in 1999 who considered long commutes okay, today’s home buyers prefer to live closer to their jobs skipping the nightmarish daily commute on I66. Sitting in bumper to bumper traffic negatively impacts their quality of life, and quality of life is of greater value to this generation of home buyers.
They have refined today’s housing economics which are heavily influenced by wanting to see their kids, having dinner at home before heading to an evening event in their community, walking the dog, a ride on the W&OD trail, or an after-work class at CrossFit.
Factors like dynamic tolling influence today’s new housing economics.
Another new economic factor is the trend towards dynamic tolling during rush hour which can be a family budget buster. For example, the new dynamic tolling on I66 adjusts during rush hour every six minutes charging tolls if only one occupant is in the car.
If used only twice a week, forty-two weeks a year then the impact will only feel like an additional car payment or three.
The resulting consequences have been good for land values. And the old adage, “location, location, location” is very applicable in the Vienna real estate market.
So, I work in an active market where older homes are sold for top dollar to make way for larger, modern homes. But where are they, and how do you buy them?
Builder’s Hidden New Home Inventory
The issue for home buyers either relocating to northern Virginia or already living here, is how to find these new homes to buy.
Most of my clients don’t have the time to search street by street like I do every week. They are busy either at work, traveling for work, or looking on websites such as Zillow when they have some downtime.
Vienna, McLean, or Falls Church are dominated by home builders who build five to twenty-five homes a year. They aren’t mass production builders Toll Brothers or K. Hovnanian who, rather these builders often live in the community and will meet with you personally during the project.
For the most part, most of them are personable, interesting people who will be a part of the community after your sale.
One piece of this smallness is a hidden new home inventory that you aren’t going to find easily. Even for me who works in the new home or tear-down market, it is a full-time job keeping in touch with builders and following up on new lot acquisitions, permits, and approved floor plans.
It is important for consumers to know there is a wide range of quality craftsmanship which also makes it difficult to compare value. Unfortunately, not all these local builders deliver the same quality kitchen, flooring, or finished carpentry work which further distorts value.
There are two routes I see people taking. Often I take on clients who tell me they have spent a year running after builders or have been outbid on lots. They recognize that having a structured plan will help achieve their goal without the hassle or stress they have subjected themselves to… again, it’s a full-time job.
If you have plenty of time:
- Map an area you ideally want to live.
- Using Zillow or another App, search for homes in your price range.
- Over a weekend, drive all the streets identifying homes you like.
- With a house number and street address, search the county database for past sales information.
- If county tax records aren’t helpful, search Zillow or another App for any records to determine who the builder was.
- During your drive, identify any new homes being built. The builder may have a website or Realtor to contact.
- On Saturday or Sunday, attend any builder open house, note natural design thinking, craftsmanship, and architecture.
- Always note brands used in kitchens, HVAC, windows, doors, plumbing, tile or flooring.
- Ask about other available properties and be prepared to share your contact information.
- View other tear-down or lots available.
- Carefully consider the floor plan design proposed for any lot, since setback rules may not fit every floor plan.
- If existing, examine the utilities like water, sewer, gas, electric, and Internet.
- If you like one builder, ask to see a list of past projects that you can drive by or even talk to recent clients.
- Ask the builder to contact you when a lot comes available.
- If you want a floor plan with a three-car garage or side-load garage, let your builder know before he submits permit plans.
- Be prepared to sign a written contract for the house immediately. It will include a down payment which may be 10% or more of the sales price.
- Most builders will not take contingent offers involving a financing contingency.
- There are selections for floors, kitchens, cabinets, tile, doors, windows, and bathrooms.
- Landscaping is critical after all the work is done. Put together a landscape plan including plantings, sod, grass, and fencing.
- You may need compromise on any part of your plan, so categorize and create a list of must-haves.
If you want to use time efficiently, I explain these tips to my new home clients:
- Hidden new home inventory may be in plain sight.
- Understand who is a quality builder and what I look for.
- Have a realistic and flexible timeline, this project could take three to twelve months.
- Secure financing tailored to your finances.
- The impact of schools, Metro, and shopping… essentially your future lifestyle.
- Not all building lots are of equal value, understand the importance of natural light and driveway placement.
- Understand the sequence of permitting, demolition, construction, and county inspections.
- Reviewing a survey, plat, property corners, and underground easements.
- Look for energy efficiency from windows to two zone HVAC systems.
- How a floor plan can be flipped or reversed.
- The importance of reviewing room dimensions on the building plans, not just marketing brochures.
- How to negotiate on a new home so the numbers work for everyone.
- Selections and who you’ll need to talk to during the building process.
- Workflow, and how to not drop the ball.
- Pre-drywall electrical and plumbing inspections.
- Selecting floor colors, wall colors, tile, exterior colors.
- Final Inspections, and landscaping.
To sum this up, helping clients over the years through this process has taught me how to help them make smart decisions saving considerable time and minimizing unforeseen expenses.
Together, I help you make on-time decisions because I look at each project globally from start to finish.
Buy Rather than Build
I can talk about “new construction, tear down and building” topics at length and, just to let you know, I like to convey an accurate picture or dose of reality because buying a lot and building is a full-time job. There is often a higher cost because you need to factor in acquisition cost, tear down, removal, permits, and possible unforeseen issues like poor soil may add an extra $100k to this project.
Deciding to Buy rather than Build is a more efficient concept making the new home buying experience less stressful and much more satisfying.
If you have been navigating this process without success, then let’s talk or set an appointment to discuss what you have seen, want, and ultimately hope to move into and call home.
My focus and first-hand experience will help you accomplish your goal accessing the hidden inventory with me.
Don’t wait six months to give me a call.