Editor’s Column | Spring Home Guide coverage begins

March 22

Katherine Salant, second from left, entertains her friends in the townhouse model. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Some real estate experts say given the bad weather that’s kept buyers from open houses recently and projections of  higher interest rates they expect a slow down in the market in coming months. Others say they expect the market to flourish spurred by pent-up demand from buyers.

The answer will come in the next few weeks as the spring home-buying season gets underway.

This week The Post begins its three-week Spring Home Guide special editions aimed at giving buyers and sellers in-depth analysis of the Washington-area real estate market.

Saturday’s section focuses on new home construction, which has been steadily growing the past few years. In the cover story, columnist Katherine Salant describes her experience “test driving” a townhouse model in Fairfax’s Mosaic District. While living in the model for two days, Salant strolled through the community to see how walkable it is. She bought groceries at a market, cooked and even threw a dinner party for several of her friends.

She said she was surprised by a lot of what she experienced there. Her experiences offers insight to anyone who might be thinking of purchasing a newly constructed home.

Our coverage also includes a story by Michele Lerner on what some are calling a mini-building boom in the region. Building permits and sales of new homes have been increasing throughout the region since the market hit the bottom during the recession.

After plunging to 8,954 in 2008, the number of building permits issued last year in metropolitan Washington rose to 13,277 — a 20.91 percent increase from 2012, according to the Census Bureau. Loudoun County reflects the dynamics of the region: Last year, 3,541 building permits were issued there, an 18 percent increase from 2012. The 2013 number is a substantial improvement over the 1,468 permits issued in 2008, but still lower than the 5,678 in 2003.

The story includes charts tracking the up-down-up cycle of permits from 2003 to 2013 for several jurisdictions.

And Salant highlights a National Association of Home Builders survey showing what new home buyers like and don’t like. The survey is driving  home builders’ decision on what to include and not include in new houses. Salant also tells us why, despite builders’ move to construct smaller houses, the average size of new homes is actually increasing.

Our coverage continues here on the blog next week. On Monday, we’ll have a post titled ‘In tight market, prelisting sites becoming popular’ and on Tuesday we’ll have ‘Tips on winning a bidding war.’

Stay tuned to the Real Estate section over the next few weeks. On March 29, we’ll highlight the market for single-family homes and on April 5 we’ll feature the condo and townhouse resale market.

Let us know what you think of our coverage. If you have ideas or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section.

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