Navigating a New Home Build – Part 1

June 15, 2021 (Reston, Virginia)

Having a home built or buying in a new home community is very different from buying an existing home. To help buyers understand the process and what to expect along the way, beginning this month, we are starting a series of articles called “Navigating a New Home Build”. This month’s focus is on choosing where you want to live.

People hunting for a new home usually consider several factors in choosing a location. They may be moving to be closer to work or a good school district, or seeking a bigger home or homesite for a growing family. They may be looking to a new life stage, want a better layout and amenities for entertaining, or to downsize and reduce maintenance. There may be key community amenities they want, such as proximity to night life or a golf course.

Whether you’re looking at a new home community or a lot to build on, it’s important to prioritize the various things you’re looking for, then divide them into essential needs versus wants you can realistically compromise on. If you’re looking for a lot, this is particularly important because, unless you have a big budget, there is unlikely to be a “perfect” lot available in close-in suburbs. Being prepared for trade-offs helps you focus on one or a few communities that meet your essential criteria.

Price is also often a driver of a home purchase. Differences in building costs for the same house are usually not significant across Northern Virginia locations for comparable homes. If you’re purchasing a lot, the bulk of the cost differential between one community and another is the difference in market prices for the lots themselves, and land related development costs, such as length or materials for the driveway, grading or retaining walls, HOA requirements, or clearing.

Zoning and regulations may also be a consideration. Some homesites might allow for outbuildings, like a guest or pool house, or a barn for horses. Increasingly, on individual lots or communities, new home builders are required to address water runoff in order to include a patio or other hardscaping, which can add to construction costs or limit some desired exterior features.

If you’re considering purchasing within a new home community, it’s important to get a good sense of how the community will feel. Sales staff should be willing to drive through the community with you and talk through what the landscaping or topography will be like, how many trees there will be throughout the community, how close together the houses will be, and how various lot shapes would impact the placement of your home. This is also an opportunity to establish whether an available lot meets all non-negotiable needs. It’s important to some buyers that a home face a certain cardinal direction, while others want to be at the end of a cul de sac or a particular street address.

If you’re contemplating buying a lot, it’s wise to have your chosen builder assess the site prior to purchase, as there are many factors to consider in siting a new home and your builder can bring a unique perspective you your lot study.

Next month’s article will discuss financing considerations.

About Gulick Group, Inc.: Established in 1987, Reston-based Gulick Group has developed communities throughout Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, including One Cameron Place and Newport Shores in Reston, The Reserve in McLean, Autumn Wood, Grovemont, and the three Riverbend Communities in Great Falls, Red Cedar West in Leesburg, and Wild Meadow in Ashburn.