While having lunch at Panera last week, I spotted a local home builder who I first met at my daughter’s pre-school years ago and called him over to chat.
After a brief introduction to the crew at my table, he launched into the number of builders who are now aggressively working the Vienna Virginia real estate market. His count was at twelve small, custom builders who are tearing down homes built in the 1940’s and 1950’s to put up homes starting around $1.35 million. A few years ago, there were only five or six.
As a quick note for those of you relocating to Northern Virginia: Vienna is really close for anyone who is working in Tyson’s Corner and is searching for more house than comparably located McLean, VA. The Metro’s Orange line ends here – a 20 minute Metro ride for anyone working in Washington DC. Other features include a Whole Foods Market, the 42 mile W&OD Bike Trail, an active Town Green, some good restaurants and a dive-bar you’ll call your own (yes, the VI).
Okay, I will give you other interesting tips too… about living here.
Out-of-Towners may feel some pressure
The experience of finding a home to buy is complicated by the fact most of these homes are “sold” before they are finished. Last summer, I was walking through a really nice new home ($1.3 million) with some buyers from Connecticut (who stumbled upon me here on my blog), and they commented that they loved the house but were unsure about the neighborhood. Although I belong to the pool club located around the corner and have seen huge changes to the neighborhood over the past twenty years, I could see their point, Especially when viewing the smaller, older homes in the neighborhood that are future tear down candidates.
Yes, seeing rusting old backyard sheds from the bedroom windows was a deal killer.
Who are these builders?
Anyone who is building within the Town of Vienna Virginia limits needs to comply with the Town restrictions on lot coverage. The limit is set at 25% which has kept any new construction away from the McMansion style. The good news is that the community is more in tune with the “Not So Big House” concept pioneered by Sarah Susanka. The result: Most of these new, luxury homes in Vienna have a ton of appeal.
Although I have experience with many of these builders there are some that are the new guys. Most of them now have web sites that offer photos of their work, and most will offer contacts for satisfied clients. All are willing to work with buyer agents, like me.
An important thing to consider is that all of these builders will have their own sales contracts that comply with Virginia statutes unless otherwise noted. Deposits you make are actually prepayments that the builder will use to complete your home, and any upgrades you pay for will be paid for upfront by you. Virginia does have a mandatory warranty on the structure but you should understand any additional warranties, explicit waivers, third party warranties, walk through punch list inspections and 90 day follow up agreements.
I typically have my clients pay a local attorney to review the sales contract and review mortgage costs with a preferred lender. For relocating home buyers, I provide a list of excellent professionals.
Although the Fairfax County Building Inspector checks off on all the systems, I make sure that it is okay that my clients are permitted to have a top notch home inspector examine the place before the builder’s “customer orientation” meeting.
The walk through form is especially important.
Except for a short downturn a couple of years ago, the Vienna home market has been a good bet for small home builders. Over the past decade I have seen at least 100 new homes pop up and all have been purchased, and as of yesterday, I saw 44 new Vienna homes for sale in our MLS. As the homes that the builders are buying to tear down (range $530,000 to $655,000) are gradually coming onto the market, they are convinced new house can be built there will be a market from $1.2 million to $1.6 million. So far, their bets have been right.
I put together an easy home search, so take a look on the Vienna Real Estate Guide page.
If you have questions about new homes in Northern Virginia, send me an email ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or a call (703-304-6827). And if you are a local builder, leave a comment with your thoughts!