Infill development has been going on in Vienna real estate for a long time. But infill development typically happens in communities where vacant lots exist, and there really aren’t any vacant lots left around Vienna, Virginia.
In the past decade Vienna builders have actively acquired homes built in the 1950’s to tear down, and I have been the agent involved in some of these transactions. These 1,450 square foot homes typically have three small bedrooms and one bath, and ideally sit on quarter to third-acre lots. Many of them have basements, but with seven foot ceilings and no natural light, they are unappealing to many of today’s home buyers. In essence, these older homes are functionally obsolete.
Originally, many of the home owners in Vienna were Federal employees living on government salaries. Today, the local economy is much more diversified and Fairfax County enjoys one of the highest average income levels in the country. And the land has become under utilized.
As a result, the property lots have become far more valuable than the structures on them and builders have bought these homes to tear down and build new homes. The Town of Vienna has a zoning restriction of 25% maximum lot coverage, and this restriction has kept new homes to a reasonable size, preserved more of the mature tree canopy, and helped fuel demand for more new homes in established neighborhoods.
And the builders have continued to push into new projects although most have scaled back on speculative building. Buyers are now entering contracts before construction begins which also allows them the benefit of further customizing the home to suit their needs. Of course, like in all real estate sales, location remains the key and prices for these new homes vary considerably. For example, when you see pricing it is usually for two finished levels only unless the home is already finished (a spec home).
A project across the street… from me.
As I am sitting here in my home office, I am looking out at one of these tear down projects which is just getting underway across the street from my home on MacArthur Avenue. The past owners kept to themselves and I really only gave the neighborly wave as they pulled out of their driveway. Why they sold out is unknown to me, but the future of the property seemed the perfect theme for an ongoing blog.
The current home was built in the late 1950’s, is built on a hillside and features a snappy garage. The lot is 16,982 square feet or 0.389 of an acre perfect for a tear down), and backs up to mature oak trees on the rectangular lot. It is a narrow, but deep lot so any home is going to be narrow and deep too.
This week has been the start of the project with the plumber digging up the yard to cut the water and sewer lines and capped them off. Both of these lines are likely original, 1957, and replacing them now makes sense even though it is a requirement. The new sewer line should last 50 years too, and the new water service line will be a modern one-inch pipe.
Many readers may remember when I remodeled my house. It too was a1957 model but had a different, deeper layout, walk-out basement, and room to expand. We weren’t the first home on the block to remodel but have certainly witnessed a neighborhood in transition. Location was very important for a number of reasons, but the actual location or position of the house was superior because the sun filters through the main level from sunrise to sunset. It is these little details that many people don’t see when they decide to buy any home, let along a custom new home on an infill lot in Vienna, McLean or Arlington.
When they start the tear down of this house then we will all follow along.