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New Homes In Northern VA: The Real Guide

New Construction Homes In Northern VA

Early Education Of A New Home Expert

My first memory of an experience with new homes was not in Northern VA. Rather, it was about 130 miles north. At the time I was about 8 years old and standing in the cold winter, in a room that would later become my bedroom.

But at the time, there was just plywood on the floors. And the walls were just lumber framing. There were no windows. As a result, it smelled like wood and sawdust.

In my 8 year old brain, I was fascinated by the whole experience. I loved being able to see the “skeleton” of the house, and the different piles of material to be attached next.

$1,425,000
Single Family Home For Sale
Active Under Contract
5
BED
5
TOTAL BATHS
4,947
SQFT
2711 N George Mason Drive
Arlington, VA 22207
MILBURN TERRACE Subdivision
New Listing - 2 weeks online
$1,745,000
Single Family Home For Sale
Active
5
BED
6
TOTAL BATHS
1,438
SQFT
2007 N Inglewood Street
Arlington, VA 22205
BROYHILL HILLS Subdivision
Price Change - 4 weeks ago
$1,649,000
Single Family Home For Sale
Active
5
BED
5
TOTAL BATHS
4,459
SQFT
5609 19th Street N
Arlington, VA 22205
TARA LEE HEIGHTS Subdivision
$1,364,856
Single Family Home For Sale
Pending
5
BED
5
TOTAL BATHS
4,480
SQFT
7204 Gordons Road
Falls Church, VA 22043
NONE AVAILABLE Subdivision
New Listing - a week online
$2,079,850
Single Family Home For Sale
Active
6
BED
6
TOTAL BATHS
6,578
SQFT
2817 N Jefferson Street
Arlington, VA 22207
YORKTOWN Subdivision
$1,662,500
Single Family Home For Sale
Active
7
BED
6
TOTAL BATHS
3,934
SQFT
2304 N Kensington Street
Arlington, VA 22205
TUCKAHOE Subdivision
$1,569,000
Single Family Home For Sale
Pending
5
BED
5
TOTAL BATHS
3,840
SQFT
2312 N Kensington Street
Arlington, VA 22205
YORKTOWN Subdivision
$1,699,900
Single Family Home For Sale
Pending
5
BED
5
TOTAL BATHS
5,557
SQFT
2950 Lexington Street N
Arlington, VA 22207
LEXINGTON VILLAGE Subdivision

Exactly how we were going to live in a house that was so cold was beyond me. Obviously, “Central heat” was not in my vocabulary.

I also did not know that it would transform into a home in the next several months. When it did, I was excited. Going to the home every few weeks and seeing it transform felt like something special.

If you remember the first time seeing the inside of a new home, then maybe we share the same fascination.

The Custom Home

I have lived my whole life in Northern VA, aside from 2 years in the home mentioned above. I moved away from Fairfax City and returned quickly. Some of us just cannot stay away.

Custom home being finished in Fairfax, VA. Hardiplank siding,
The custom home built in Fairfax City, VA.

Here we built a fully custom home in Fairfax City. I was 15 years old, and we all did some work. Mostly, I did the manual labor and let the more skilled workers do finishes.

But I had my first front row seat to the day-to-day building of a fully custom home. Much of the foundation of the old home was kept, which can be a good option and budget friendly.

Living in a home that you watch being built offers a satisfaction and connection that is unmatched.

A decade later, I started helping others experience that same satisfaction.

Welcome To My Guide

I wrote this guide for you. First off, if you are looking for new home in Northern VA you are in the right place. However, if you are still trying to compare buying a new home vs. buying a resale home, this guide is also for you.

It is a look at the pros and cons of buying new, all the types of new homes, some of the hot areas for new construction in Northern VA and helpful tips and info based on my experience working with local and national builders.

If you have questions about new construction during browsing the guide, reach out to me and I will help you directly.

Benefits Of Buying A New Home

Buying a new home has an excitement factor that a resale home does not. It is easy to get caught up in the all the bells and whistles to your new home.

However, you want to keep the big picture in mind. The decision to buy a new home should be like any real estate decision. Sit down, go over your goals with an expert and then make a decision.

This decision should not be based on how fancy and new a home is, but what makes the most sense for your family. I am going to go through the benefits of buying new, and at the bottom of this post are some tips to make a good buying decision on a new home in Northern VA.

Here are, however, some of the biggest benefits of building new.

Build how you want

Unless you are buying a completed spec home, buying new means you get a chance to pick out your finishes. In addition, you can get different level of upgrades on the finishes from the builder depending on your tastes.

In most cases, I have found upgrades from a builder to be cheaper than having a contractor doing work after closing. This is especially true for cabinets, counters and flooring. And even more true if you find something that they stock.

There is more info below about building a custom home with more tips, so read on.

Builder Warranties

When you buy a resale property, you take the good with the bad. With new construction, you get some more peace of mind.

For starters, your home has not had anyone else working on it except for your builder. Therefore, if you go with a good builder who you trust than you will be getting only their craftsmanship in your new home.

For resale, there have been many contractors and handymen working on the homes. Like any professional, some are good, some not so good and some are actually not professional at all.

In addition, builders offer warranties that resale homes will not. Some resale homes will offer a home warranty but the coverage is not as extensive and does not last as long as a new home.

NVHomes has a good example of a builder warranty offered around Northern VA. As you can see here, they offer 1 year on all workmanship (2 year for condo); 2 years plumbing, electrical and HVAC; and a 10 year structural warranty.

Modern Home, With Modern Finishes

Builders both big and small know that they are entering a contest for your attention. Builders invest a portion of their profits into a design team for their new home projects.

New kitchen in a new home in McLean VA. Modern finishes.
This kitchen was built with all the modern finishes that buyers currently were seeking.

This makes sure that the home you buy will (or SHOULD) be on the cutting edge of real estate trends. In this case, your home will be in style for some time after you purchase it.

Along the same lines, if you are building a fully custom house, remember that the overly quirky features of your home you will have to sell to another buyer at some point in the future. Sometimes too unique can cost you later.

Great Land Location

If you are buying a spec home, or a home in a large development of homes, you are most likely going to be in a good location. Why? This is simple: builders want to build in areas where people are interested in living.

So they go after prime land for development. A good example of this is how many of the big builders acquired land near the silver line metro extension.

On the other hand, it is always good to analyze the area you plan to buy. Check for future master plans/development. Some areas are more established and closer in to DC, these areas have shown good long term market health.

Types Of New Homes In Northern VA

Single Family Detached

New homes of this type are stand alone homes that you think of when describing your “forever” home. They are larger than the other types, with rooms mostly upstairs.

With that said, many builders of larger luxury homes are adding a main level master bedroom. It is also common for bedrooms to be built in a finished basement.

The front of a new home in Fairfax County in Northern VA. Blue with white trim.
A new home built by Evergreene.

They also offer the biggest yard. The amount of land varies by what area you are looking and your budget. However, if you want a large fenced yard, this is the type of home you want to look at.

In more established areas, you will likely be buying from a smaller builder who tore down an old home to put up your new home.

In areas where there is more land to buy, your new home may be grouped in a bunch of homes in a community.

Townhomes

If you have read my articles, you know I have a soft spot for townhomes. With that said, new townhomes really get me excited.

A great example of a new townhome community is Metro Row in Fairfax. This was a great example of a solid community to buy. It was near multiple town center areas, walkable to metro (well named) and the future plans for the area are solid.

A rendering of Metro Row, a townhome community in Fairfax VA. The community finished in 2018 was near the orange line.

Townhomes in Northern VA are common. We have them all over. New townhomes are also common, depending on the market cycle.

With a townhome, you share a common wall with neighbors. Either 1 or 2 depending on if you are on the end of a row or the interior.

Townhomes mostly have a little backyard. Usually only a couple thousand square feet. However, if fenced it is enough for a sitting area or place for a pet to use.

End unit townhomes are worth a little bit more than an interior. First off, they usually have a few more windows. Second, they are sometimes bigger. And lastly, most of the time they offer a little bit more land.

Condos

The more populated an area becomes, the more “high density” housing you see developed. Thus, more and more condo communities are popping up in Northern VA.

Many of the communities are built as part of a larger development plan. Lots are walkable to grocery, shops, dining, gyms and entertainment.

New condo community in Ashburn VA. Brick and siding with porches.
A condo community finished by Toll Brothers in Ashburn.

Others are bit further out, but have amenities in the complex themselves.

There are primarily three styles styles of condos in our area. The first is built like an apartment. With a large building consisting of multiple levels of 1 level condo. The second are built as 2 level condos, or a mix of 1 level and 2 level top floor units. Lastly, there can be condos that are 3 or more levels, built exactly like a townhome but with condo ownership.

With a condo, you own the unit and not the land. These new homes are lower maintenance than other options because they are generally smaller and you do not need to do exterior maintenance.

Duplexes

Duplexes are rare in our area. What is usually approved are townhome communities. The closest I saw to a new duplex was one in 2018 built over the shell of an old duplex in Falls Church City. See Photo.

If this changes, I will update you.

A rare sighting, duplex built over an old duplex in Falls Church City.

Retirement Communities

Retirement communities are usually defined as 55+ Active Adult communities. These communities feature accessible homes like condos with elevators, patio homes and other accessible homes.

New Home Definitions

Spec Homes

A spec home is a built without having a predetermined buyer. The builder is “speculating” that they will be able to sell it for a profit on the open market.

Spec homes can be either be one home on a single lot, or a new home in a large community.

When the Northern VA market is active and full of buyers, you will find lots of new spec homes. Less when the market is slower or facing difficulty.

In a large community, there are many spec homes sold. However, builders also sometimes sell lots where construction has not yet started.

A nearly completed or finished spec home can sometimes offer a good deal. In a large community, this often means getting a more upgraded home for a good price, rather than a discount off what others have sold for. More on that later.

Spec home in Vienna, VA. Blue with white trim.
This home was a spec home, a big one. It sold on the open market in Vienna, VA.

Many large builders want to get spec homes sold so they can move on to the next phase of a community. And for local builders building on one lot, they want to get it sold and on to the next.

Spec homes are usually far along in construction or sometimes fully completed. Therefore, they offer the least amount of customization.

Custom Homes

A fully custom new home is what dreams are made of. Less custom homes are built than many buyers are led to believe.

A true custom home is built completely to the tastes of one buyer. This involves developing a your own floor plan and design with the builder and their team.

This usually consists of an architect, designer and the builder. Occasionally an engineer (civil, structural, etc.) may also be involved. This depends on the size and complexity of the construction.

A large home in McLean, VA. Custom finishes
A custom home in McLean VA, finished in 2017.

On a fully custom home, you will have the largest selection of finishes. Since the home is being built just for you, order everything from door knobs to the exterior finishes to be installed by your builder.

Custom homes are the most expensive option, but in the right area with the right builder they can still be a good investment.

Another thing to remember is the deposit. A fully custom home usually requires a large non-refundable deposit. This is because the builder is constructing your home, that may not suit the needs of the typical buyer.

Therefore, an extra deposit is required since they do not want to have to try to sell it on the market later if you back out.

Semi-Custom

This is sometimes mistakenly called a custom home later on at dinner parties. Semi-Custom homes use a floor plan that the builder uses already, with some modifications to the layout and/or the finishes.

What started as a spec home will also at times turn into a semi custom home. This happens if a buyer puts a contract on it while it is in the early phases of development.

A new home on a bright sunny day in Falls Church City, Northern VA.
New home completed by Zimmermann Homes. The buyer did lots of customization, but was a builder floor plan. This is a semi custom

Not surprisingly, in a seller’s market large percentage of new homes and new townhomes in Northern VA sell semi custom. Although they may start out as spec homes, they are sold quickly and allow you to finish them to your taste.

But the typical example is this: a builder has a partially finished home or a lot in the community. Then, they give you a model of theirs to work off of. You pick finishes and maybe move a few walls or placement of fixtures. There you have a semi custom home.

Elevation

Elevation refers to the design of the exterior. It is usually identified by front, rear and side. So the front elevation is the design of the front of the home.

The “wow” factor on your new home when friends drive up, comes from the front elevation.

Model Home

A model home is a finished home that builders use to show off to buyers approximately what their other homes will look like.

In large communities, the model will be right next to the construction. For builds done on one lot in an established neighborhood, the builder may have a model elsewhere.

Local luxury builders in Northern VA often will use a recently completed home as a model before the buyer moves in. And so there model home changes with their inventory.

The interior (kitchen) is shown of a model home in Fairfax County.
The interior of a model home that was later sold.

New model homes are also sold to buyers, in a couple different scenarios. First, the models may be sold before any other home. The buyer then rents the model back to the builder until the other homes in the area are sold. Then, the buyer takes possession.

Secondly, the models are kept by the builder and then are sold after the community is completed. Prices on model homes are usually higher because they have the highest finish level and some custom features.

Delivery

When a builder says “fall delivery”, in new home terms that means they are estimating it will get an occupancy permit in the fall. In other words, delivery is when you can close on your home and move in then.

Northern VA New Home Areas

Vienna

Vienna is the archetype for single family new construction. The town has a lot going for it. It has shops on Church St., some of the best dining in Northern VA, it is close to major commuter routes and has large buildable lots with older homes.

Some of the area’s best builders have made their mark building in Vienna VA. Some local builders only build in this area. The sheer volume of old homes torn down to make way for new ones is mesmerizing.

White farmhouse style in Vienna in Northern VA. One of the many new homes for sale in Vienna.
A new home sold in Vienna in 2019. There are a lot of new homes in the area of this magnitude.

Popular new homes change with time. Center hall colonials were replaced by craftsman and modern farmhouse style homes. However, there are all kinds of style homes being built. Spec homes, custom homes and semi custom are all represented.

My favorite Vienna builders include Stahl Homes, Ziberty Homes and Fisher Custom Homes. There are many quality builders in Vienna.

Arlington

Arlington is the closest in to DC. It has 3 access points to downtown: Chain Bridge, Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and the Key Bridge. Amazon has a headquarters in Arlington, VA. When they moved to Arlington, land values shot up near their location in 2018/2019.

There lots of classic older homes in Arlington, but also a large amount of new homes going up. Space is at a premium and Arlington is well established. Which mean many new homes are single family replacing an older home that was torn down.

Modern farmhouse in Arlington. One of many new homes being built in the area. This one is white & black trim and rooflines.
A new home in Arlington built by CRT.

Lots bigger than big a quarter acre in this area is considered large. Some creativity has allowed builders to put large homes on yards around 7,000 square feet.

However, there are also new townhomes and condo complexes that are constructed in Arlington.

Many builders in Arlington also build in neighboring towns of McLean, Falls Church City and others.

Arlington has an extensive list of quality builders. These include Classic Cottages, Zimmermann Homes, and MR Homes.

McLean

McLean is home to Virginia’s most valuable land. It is also known for its large custom luxury homes. Homes along the Potomac River, or the “Gold Coast”, are the most expensive in the state.

The record sale in all of the state for one residence was $43,000,000 in 2018. Records are of course made to be broken.

But McLean is more versatile than people realize. As part of the Tysons Corner development, McLean has also seen some stunning new high rise condos.

It also has new townhome communities that pop up from time to time. There are also more standard subdivisions with smaller lots. These are also targets for tear downs.

A large, stone front new home in Northern VA. Three car side garage and pointed tutor style architecture.
A new home in McLean VA finished in 2017. This was sold by my friend and mentor Bill Hoffman.

At the end of the day, McLean’s trademark is high end properties. Some of my favorite McLean builders are ALM Builders, Artisan Homes, Joy Construction .

Alexandria

Alexandria has a large selection of new homes. Like many established towns in Northern VA, it has two jurisdictions: Alexandria City and Alexandria that lies in Fairfax County.

This area is best known for it’s Old Town district, nearby Del Ray and also the more modern Potomac Yard development. These areas are sought after for new construction, with lots of new townhome and condo communities. There are also occasional single family homes on smaller lots.

Waterfront new homes in Alexandria VA, a condo complex built by EYA.
Waterfront luxury condos under construction in Old Town Alexandria by EYA in 2020.

Outside of these areas in Alexandria are a mix of suburban neighborhoods and dense urban areas. Both see new construction, with the neighborhoods being done by mostly small local builders on single lots.

Notable Alexandria builders who build on single lots include The Avenue Builders and Wakefield Homes. Because of the density of Alexandria, it attracts some larger builders. Pulte Homes and EYA have done significant projects there are well.

Falls Church

Falls Church City is another great area for large custom and semi-custom homes. It also has a portion in Fairfax county. This area also sees new development.

The City of Falls Church has a handful of both custom and spec projects going. It is an established area and many builders that build in McLean and Arlington will also build in Fall Church City. There is an occasional new townhome and condo development, but mostly large single family.

New modern luxury home in Falls Church. Rectangular home gives a modern feel and lights are on throughout the house.
A new home built by Monarch Construction in Falls Church. Contemporary but still welcoming, this is a good example of a unique new luxury home.

Pimmit Hills is a poster child for a neighborhood that was targeted for redevelopment. It began to turn over in the 2010s, with the old 1950s homes being replaced by large luxury homes.

Pimmit Hills is a great area for a new home, because of driveability to Tysons Corner and proximity to metro. It lies in Fairfax County.

Some of my favorite developers in this area include Monarch Construction, Brush Arbor Homes, and DC First Properties. Pimmit Hills has a unique set of builders that specialize there. For more info about this area contact me.

Fairfax

Fairfax is another large area, split into Fairfax City and the rest of Fairfax. The city has a nice old town district and has attracted both condo and townhome projects nearby.

Fairfax City began to see some new construction on their older neighborhoods as well, which should continue in strong markets.

There are some large, wooded neighborhoods off of Main St. that have been popular spots to build large single family homes. Some of these sell custom but you can also find a spec home with the right timing.

An elevated shot of one of many new homes in Fairfax VA. Blue siding, brick, beautiful landscaping.
A new home in Fairfax built by Christopher Companies in 2018.

On the west side of Fairfax is the Fair Oaks/Fair Lakes area. This area has seen a lot of townhome development as well as large single family neighborhoods.

Although well established, there are projects that still come up. This is further from 495, but an amenity rich area with lots of shopping, dining and entertainment.

Fairfax builders include Christopher Companies, Evergreene Homes, and Reel Homes.

Herndon

Where the metro goes, builder have followed. Herndon saw a large uptick in new construction starting when the silver line metro stations were announced.

Herndon is a small area, but historically has a good balance of types of new homes. There are communities with no HOA making it easy for builders to build on one plat of land. They also have some large builders that have built massive communities. Discovery Square is one such large project in Herndon

There is room for more development, so keep an eye out. Herndon has gotten a reputation along with Reston and Ashburn as one of the technology company hubs on the east coast.

Herndon is another spot where some very large builders have done projects. This includes Lennar (Discovery Square) and NVHomes. If you are looking for a well priced home built on a single lot, I really like Doll Homes.

Reston

Reston is full of nostalgia. It has some of the most historically unique architecture in VA. It is a large planned community dating back to the ’60s with lots of green space, contemporary charm and activities.

For more information on the history of Reston check out our Reston Townhome Guide.

New townhome community in Reston. Colorful brick and siding.
New townhome community in Reston near the metro in 2019. Built by Sekas.

Because of how established Reston is and also the planned nature of the community, it sees less new homes than some of its neighbors.

But that does not mean there are none. Reston Town Center has had huge condo complexes built. And the metro has brought in luxury townhomes nearby (as the metro usually does).

In the future there will be more developments as Reston changes and brings about more zoning hearings and planning.

My favorite builders that build in Reston are Sekas Homes (also Known for Vienna). Some of the big builders are Kettler (condo builders) and Stanley Martin is headquartered in Reston.

Ashburn

Ashburn exploded on the map in the early 2000s. Many of the large builders on the east coast call Ashburn home.

A model of a new luxury townhome community in Northern VA. Shows the layout of the neighborhood and also the nearby amenities.
A model of Westmoore, a luxury townhome community by NVHomes. The community was built walkable to the silver line stop. This was located in sales office at the community.

With the growth of new homes, Northern VA also saw a lot of job growth centered in Ashburn. Data centers and technology companies have moved to Ashburn consistently.

Ashburn is known for its large suburban single family homes, but also builds quite a few townhome communities. Around the late 2010s, it also began building some active adult (55+ communities) with condos & patio homes and townhomes with elevators.

Ashburn has great infrastructure and built community centers and town centers along with their communities.

The east coast big companies have made their mark on Ashburn including Toll Brothers, Ryan Homes (NV Homes), Van Metre, and Knutson.

Other Areas & The Market

The above list is just a snapshot of towns to find new homes in Northern VA. There are all kinds of new projects going on in other towns.

If you are thinking of an area you do not see reach out to me. I will add it to the guide and answer any questions you have.

Builders usually build in cycles. In a buyer’s market, that means there are more people selling than buying and buyers get a choice of homes. In this market there are a lot of resale homes on the market. Usually, this means less new construction.

In a seller’s market, there is more demand for homes and an excess of buyers. Oftentimes, there will be more new homes for sale during these times of high demand for housing.

New Homes For Sale In Northern VA

If you want to see all the new construction currently for sale in Northern VA, you can use the map below. All the listings are active on the market.

Find the markers for more info on a listing. Zoom in and see different new construction homes.

The New Home Process

Deciding Between A New Home & Resale Home

This is the first critical step in the journey to new construction. If you are going to build a unique, fully custom home and have a vision for it, then it is an easy answer ( you should build new). It is highly unlikely you will find what you want on the market.

Similarly, there will be times when a neighborhood or area might just be starting to build newer homes and everything else is decades older. This is another good time to build new if you want something modern.

The same goes for location. If you want to be very close to (metro, town center, etc) sometimes builders have the best land close to new attractions. In that case, you will want to buy from them.

Choosing An Area

If you are going new, get clear on an area. This area can be as big as multiple towns or as small as one neighborhood.

Most likely you will start with a larger area and narrow down. I have helped many clients through this process.

You also want to get clear on a budget. This could eliminate some areas right off the bat. Second, figure out where you want to be near. Commute is a big part of this process.

If you have not yet looked around at where some of the locations are I have been discussing, take a look at the map.

A lot of new homes for sale on a map. Green dots represent a home on a satellite image of Northern VA.
All of the areas we discussed above, shown satellite style. Each dot is a new home at the time.

Finally, you will want to narrow down the type of home you want considering your budget and area desires.

As you can see from above, different areas in Northern VA offer different styles of new homes. Sometimes, you will start looking for one type of home and end up with something different. This is common.

Finding Your Home & Builder

A majority of my clients find a spec home or semi custom based on an area they want to live. Once they narrow down the area they would like to live, it is time to go home hunting.

See all of the spec homes you can based on this area. A good agent will also find out about projects that are upcoming from each builder.

If you are looking for townhomes and condos, 90% of the time you are looking at projects built by a large company. If you have a strong preference toward one company you may have to be flexible on the area.

You want to avoid a builder with no experience. Someone with no homes on their resume should be avoided.

Ask about a builder’s past projects and references. Check their website for past projects. Check their credit score (kidding).

Some of my clients find a builder and then figure out which lot they want to build on. This process can be longer and takes some more effort.

But it is worth it if you want a certain type of home, especially a fully custom home.

To find a builder, the best way is to start online or ask me. There are also recommendations above by area. Most builders have their portfolios online. Find one that has a history of building the home you want.

Finding Land For A Custom Home

This could be the most difficult part of building a custom home. Or, it could be the easiest.

Some people reading this guide are going to build on their own lot (easy, already done!). If this is the case, you only need to find a builder, see more on that above.

However most will need to find the land to build. In an active market and a popular area this is a lot of work. Make sure to enlist the help of your builder if you have chosen one.

Many times builders have lots that they have coming up for you to look at. You should also be asking your real estate agent to help.

A proactive agent can search for a lot with you. I have also done marketing to sellers on my clients behalf in a specific neighborhood to search for a lot.

Sometimes, the land will be listed on the market and can be found online. In the established areas of Northern VA most land will also have an older home on it.

Lots on the market often sell quickly in a good market, so be ready to move quickly and write a strong offer.

HOAs

If you are looking to buy a lot, you will want to be aware of Home Owner’s Associations (HOAs). Most neighborhoods that have become popular for tearing down old homes and building new do not have HOAs.

HOAs often restrict the exterior of homes, and further restrict additions and new construction. This can add another layer of uncertainty when building which is why most builders avoid them.

It becomes even more difficult to build a new home on a lot in a large planned community.

Ironically, if you are buying into a large new community an HOA will be developed by the builder. Later, it will be passed on to the home owners to run.

Info On Negotiations

You might be wondering if there is flexibility in price on new homes. Depending on who you ask you will get different answers.

First, for big builders in a large community. I have only one time had a builder in an unfinished community negotiate on sales price. I am sure it will not be the last, but it is rare.

More frequently in these communities they negotiate by giving you upgrade options. They might, for example, give you a sum of money to spend at the “design center”. This allows you to pick out upgraded finishes for them to install.

Builders do not like negotiating on price because it can affect their future sales in a community, and the value of the neighborhood as a whole.

For smaller builders on spec homes or semi-custom, wiggle room is case by case. But often you can work them down from the list price.

Conversely, during negotiations you can ask for upgrades for an incomplete home if talks about price get stuck.

Custom Home Negotiating

Fully custom homes get a fully custom price tag. If your builder has built a similar project, go off that sale price as a starting point.

In this situation, transparency is nice if you can get the builder to give you more info on where the money is going (finishes, builder fees, etc).

Like any real estate negotiation, know the market. Builders often try to play to your sense of losing a home. They will tell you it could sell anytime.

Sometimes, this is absolutely true. Other times, there are other lots available and you can try for some negotiation.

One of my strengths is studying and knowing the market conditions in an area. Above all, this will give you an advantage in negotiating and knowing when to give in and when to push.

New Home Builder Contracts

Builder contracts differ from resale contracts. And each builder’s contract is slightly different.

You will want to make sure that you have knowledge of what you are signing. Go over the contract with the builder rep and your agent (hopefully me, I love contracts!)

There are some common differences. Oftentimes, the builder will require a non refundable deposit. This is especially true if you pay for upgrades or are building a custom home.

Northern VA resale contracts generally have a deposit held in escrow, but it is refundable if you use a contingency to get out of the contract. For builders, there are less chances to get out of a contract.

One contingency you will want is a financing contingency if you are getting a loan. For a large builder in a community usually this is offered. Building custom, it may not be. You may lose your deposit even if you are denied financing.

Home inspection contingencies are rare. But, make sure that you will be allowed an inspection with a third party inspector and get clarity on what happens if deficiencies are found.

Keep in mind, you do not want surprises. It is a good idea to go over your contract before signing.

Inspections

When you walk into a brand new home the modern look and new finishes can distract you from anything else. Builders will also offer “walk throughs” so you can point out anything that you see for them to fix before you settle.

The walk through periods are right before they attach drywall (if you have a contract that early), usually a week before settlement, and the the day of settlement.

However, in my experience a large number of buyers buying a new home do not get an independent inspection. I think this is a mistake.

Inspectors will make a list of items for you to bring to the builder. It will be more extensive than what you can find on your own. And in my experience, builders often will fix a portion or even majority of the list.

You will also have the county code inspections. Keep in mind, this is just to make sure the home is built to code and not for quality of construction or finishes.

Study Periods

Study periods are a bit different. This relates to you if you are buying a lot to build on. Not every lot will support the home you want to build. With raw land, you will also want to make sure you will be able to build at all (getting utilities for example).

This is what a study period is used for. It is a contingency where you are able to get out of your contract if the lot or land for whatever reason will not work for you.

Study period times vary, but a couple of weeks is typical. You, your agent and your builder can help you with the need and length of a study period.

Finishes & Construction

This is the exciting part. Depending on when you get your new home under contract the whole process can take a few weeks to a year or sometimes more if it is a custom home.

The large builders have a design center where you will be able to go and choose your finishes. This is likely where you will have the most fun.

Here you get to pick your floors, cabinets, counters, bathroom tiles and much more. The design center is also where you can get upgrades if you would like. If the builder gave you a credit for upgrades, time to enjoy the fruits of your negotiation.

For a smaller builder, you may be able to see a model of their typical finishes and choose what you would like.

You can also search online for what you would like and request these upgrades. This can more easily be done with a smaller builder.

Throughout construction, you can go walk through the home to see how things are progressing. Right before drywall goes up the builder will contact you to do a walkthrough to see the plumbing, framing and electrical.

Take advantage of this and get to know your new home. If anything seems wrong, point it out! Get it explained or fixed before the inside is finished.

Moving In

Settlement date will be set by the builder. Usually, they have some flexibility on the day that is chosen.

But they are not going to give you a ton of extra time, and they also will not settle early because your home won’t be done. Soon after the builder gets an occupancy permit they will be ready to settle.

The occupancy permit is the final phase of county inspections, where the home is declared ready for you to move in.

After move in, keep the info for you warranties, both through the builder and through independent appliances. Lastly, enjoy your home!

Tips For Buying A New Home

When Buying New, Think Long

New homes in Northern VA are priced higher per square foot than resale homes. This may seem obvious, but keep in mind that you are paying a premium when you go new.

I will tell you, when buying any home that you want to plan to own the home at least 5 years, ideally 7-10 years or more. (If you do move, maybe renting out the home is an option).

Owning long term is even more important when buying a new home. Especially if you are in an unfinished community. The last thing you want to do is compete with the builder when selling.

I have seen many new home buyers have to take a loss by turning around and selling a 1-2 year old home. Sometimes, this cannot be avoided. Just be aware of this going in and plan to own long term.

Try First To Find A Resale

This is especially good advice if you are buying in an area where there is a lot of new development communities for many years.

For instance, Ashburn VA throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Over there, you can often find a home resale to compare to a new build.

For example, if you can find a 5 or 10 year old home on the market that meets most of your needs, take a look at the numbers and decide if spending the extra money is needed for a new home.

Now, for a custom home that is unique, building is likely the only option to get what you want. In this scenario, you can create your own value and equity if you build something that will be sought after when you go to sell.

Check For Builder Incentives

Many builders offer incentives. Keep this in mind, if you get a loan through their lender and use their title company you can get some closing costs covered or money to use towards upgrades.

In this case, it is a good idea to compare the total loan package to one from an outside third party to see who gives you the best deal and who you are more confident working with.

Also, there are sometimes homes build for another buyer that they did not end up buying. The builder sometimes will give you a discount on this completed home to get it off their inventory and on to the next.

Find An Expert

If you are thinking about buying a new home in Northern VA, you are probably seeing it can be complex. This is understandable, there are a lot of moving parts.

And depending on your goals, the process could change from one person to the next.

The good news is, I can help you sort it out. An expert in new homes can make the difference between a decision you regret and a home you will be happy in for years.

Conclusion

Thank you for reading this guide! What is next for you in your new home search? Let me know what your goals are and I can help. Contact me today.

Will Rodgers

Will is an award winning real estate agent, author and high tech marketing expert. Adopting a consultative approach he has helped hundreds of clients meet their real estate goals in the Northern VA real estate market.

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