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Posted at 01:23 PM ET, 05/25/2012

Editor’s column: New construction offers option for growing number of D.C. house hunters

It would be hard for anyone living in or driving through Prince George’s County these days to miss all the new housing signs that have cropped up in recent months.

On my morning trek through the county to work, I see countless signs seeking to woo buyers to developments with such enchanting names as Cherry Tree Estates, Simmons Ridge and Timber Village.


Willowsford Farm is a working farm located inside the new Willowsford Development. The Willowsford community has more than 4,000 acres that include 2,000 acres of conservancy-managed open space. (Tracy A. Woodward - THE WASHINGTON POST)

This flurry of construction activity is surprising given the glut of existing houses in the county that either aren’t selling because the homeowners are underwater in their loans or are in the foreclosure process.

In the final installment of our Navigating the Market series, reporter Olga Khazan examines the counter trend to the sellers’ market that is playing out in District neighborhoods, including Capitol Hill and Adams Morgan, and close-in suburbs. High demand for a shrinking supply of properties is spurring multiple offers, shutting out numerous prospective buyers who are finding themselves priced out of the market.

But as Olga found out, construction of single-family homes, which stalled when the housing bubble burst a few years ago, is beginning to pick up across the region. The Washington area had the third highest number of construction permits issued in 2011, behind Houston and Dallas.

Developers are marketing to value-conscious buyers who don’t want to pay a mark-up on a property simply because it’s in a trendy neighborhood close to a Metro line. They are banking on buyers being drawn to the idea of getting a brand-new house with substantially more interior and outdoor space for a lot less money than they would pay in the city.

Suddenly, house hunters have another option. Not only are there a variety of offerings in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, but they can select their floor plan, color scheme and amenities. Developers are typically anxious to recoup their investment, so they are often eager to cater to buyers’ needs in offering bargains. Those are some of the factors that appealed to my wife and me in buying two new houses.

We bought our first new home in a development in a decidedly dicey part of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. When I first saw the property, it was nothing more than frames. What sold us was the magnificent backyard view of mountains and valleys. It was exciting watching the house progress week to week and getting to know our future neighbors, all of whom had been discouraged by the exorbitant housing prices in other parts of the city. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars less than we would have on comparable properties elsewhere, and watched our property values soar over the next few years as the community became more desirable.

Upon moving here, we decided to buy a new home in Southern Maryland for the same reasons. We were able to buy more house for the money and we weren’t inheriting someone else’s troubles.

Of course, the drawback is the one-hour commute to work in downtown Washington everyday. Such commutes can be maddening after a particularly long workday.

Let us know about the trade offs you’ve made in selecting your home or are considering in your house hunting efforts.

Share your experiences with us. Also tell us what you think of the series and your ideas for future coverage.

More from the series:

Builders woo buyers with new features, smaller floor plans

How to buy a house in D.C.’s sellers’ market

Even in D.C.’s hot market, sellers need to make houses stand out

House hunters find it’s a jungle

Contact Dion

Follow @postrealestate

By Dion Haynes  |  01:23 PM ET, 05/25/2012

 
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