When you’ve got a million dollars to spend, you can afford to be picky. Saurabh and Payal Kapoor spent nearly a year searching in Northern Virginia for existing and new homes with price tags around $1 million.
The couple had trouble finding an appealing home that also met their criteria of a location in an excellent school district for their children, ages 5 and 4 months, and a reasonable commute to Saurabh Kapoor’s Old Town Alexandria office.
“It would have been simpler to move into an existing home, but we never found one that was in good enough condition in the right location,” Saurabh Kapoor says. “Now we’re excited to get exactly what we want the way we want it.”
The Kapoors, who live in Cameron Station in Alexandria, have agreed to buy a to-be-built home by Evergreene Homes at Hollin Hall Village in Alexandria. Kapoor says that although buying new means the family must wait until February or March 2014 to move, the interior space of new homes is better suited to the way people live today.
“We got more bang for the buck by buying new,” Kapoor says.
Buyers of new million-dollar homes want less maintenance, more energy efficiency and such quality features and finishes as marble or granite counters, maple or cherry cabinets, stainless-steel appliances and high ceilings, says Debby Jones, director of design for the Evergreene Companies in Chantilly.
Delia McCormick, a real estate agent with Evers & Co. in Washington, says people seeking new homes in the million-dollar range typically buy semi-custom models that enable them to make changes to meet their needs.
“There’s been an evolution of style and internal architecture over the past several decades, so new homes offer layouts that are close to perfection for today’s families,” McCormick says. “Financially, it’s great, too, because you can buy a new home and not have to put a lot of money into it for at least 15 years or so instead of spending money on maintenance and replacement costs.”
A $1 million price tag is slightly more than double the average price of a home in the D.C. area, which was $490,385 in August 2013, according to Real Estate Business Intelligence (RBI), a market-research subsidiary of Rockville-based multiple-listing service MRIS. Yet even $1 million won’t necessarily buy your fantasy home, especially in a prime location.
“If you want a new single-family home with some land and 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, you need to go farther away from the city, to places in Loudoun County,” says Traci Oliver, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Fairfax County. “You see some pockets of new homes in Vienna near the Metro that are priced a little above $1 million but they have at most 3,000 square feet and are on smaller lots. In Arlington, you mostly find luxury condos in that price range.”
In Herndon, Carr Homes is selling nine houses at Shaker Knolls on three-quarter-acre lots with base prices of $1.13 million to $1.18 million. The houses have 4,000 to 5,000 square feet with four bedrooms, three full baths, a half bath, high ceilings, hardwood floors, oak stairs, chair rail and crown moldings and a three-car garage. Tom West, community sales manager for Shaker Knolls, says the houses are generating a lot of interest because they’re the least expensive new option within the sought-after Langley High School district.
Oliver says some buyers prefer new homes even though they generally cost more than older homes because they offer open floor plans with larger kitchens and family rooms and have been designed with organized storage spaces such as a laundry room with cabinets and a mudroom with space for kids’ athletic equipment and backpacks. The level of customization available to new buyers increases with the price, Oliver says.
“I recently worked with a buyer from Texas who was surprised that $1 million didn’t buy her something huge and spectacular,” Oliver says. “She ended up buying something smaller and closer-in to the city which is new and has higher-end features but certainly isn’t grandiose.”
Kathi Kershaw, a realty agent with Evers & Co. in Washington, says that within the city limits buyers looking for a $1 million new home will mostly find luxury condominium units such as those available at CityCenterDC, base priced from $500,000 to $3.5 million, but with most priced around $1 million or more.
Residents of CityCenterDC, in downtown Washington, will be in walking distance of many restaurants, museums, theaters and shops. The condos are part of the 10-acre redevelopment of the old Convention Center that now includes parks, offices, shops and restaurants in addition to the residences.
Building amenities include a rooftop deck with an outdoor kitchen, dining area and fire pit; a fitness center, a yoga studio, a lounge, a wine storage room, a spa treatment room, a dining room with a catering kitchen, a conference room, concierge services, 24-hour security and a guest suite. The homes have white oak flooring, open kitchens with high-end appliances and a terrace or balcony. The two-bedroom units, priced from $1 million, have from 1,200 to 1,498 square feet.
Just outside the city, buyers can find spacious brownstones by Michael Harris Homes at Symphony Park in North Bethesda priced from $1.2 million to more than $2 million. Fifteen townhouses are available at Symphony Park, sited adjacent to the Strathmore Music Center and within walking distance of the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station. The townhouses have four levels with two roof terraces, open floorplans, oversized transom windows, hardwood floors, gourmet kitchens with high-end appliances, three bedrooms, three or four full baths, and a half-bath.
Farther north in Montgomery County, Platinum Custom Homes is building two houses, each with more than 4,000 square feet of living space, at the end of a cul-de-sac at 14128 and 14130 Travilah Rd.in Rockville. Each house sits on a half-acre lot, and they are priced at $1.1 million to $1.2 million. Real estate agent Josh Ross, with Re/Max Pros in Germantown, the listing agent for the houses, says similar houses in Bethesda or Potomac sell for about $1.6 million simply because of their location.
“The Travilah Road homes are located in the Wooten High School cluster, which is generating a lot of interest,” Ross says. “Also, we’re probably the lowest price for a new home in this community unless you go to a smaller house or a smaller lot.”
Kershaw says that buyers of newly built homes in Montgomery County must look at least 15 miles outside the city to stay under $1 million but that they can find single-family homes under construction in Clarksburg, Damascus, Rockville, Gaithersburg and Germantown priced around $1 million.
“Every one of them has a three-car garage, three levels and at least four bedrooms and three full baths and some have four full baths,” Kershaw says. “They have at least one-third acre of land and, if you go far enough, as much as six acres.”
McCormick worked with Cappie and Ron Morgan, homeowners who have lived in their Cabin John home for 40 years and wanted to downsize.
“We’re in our 70s and in good health, but we wanted a one-level place that would accommodate our future needs,” Cappie Morgan says. “We looked for over a year at existing homes and new homes and eventually bought a single-family home by Winchester Homes at Poplar Run in Silver Spring. We were seduced by all the light pouring into the house, and we liked the fact that we could choose universal design elements for the house.”
Although the Morgans were prepared to spend more, their new home, which will be ready in April or May 2014, cost less than $1 million. The development is about a mile from the Glenmont Metro station.
Buyers willing to look farther outside the city will find new single-family houses on one acre or more by Toll Brothers at Patuxent Chase in Ellicott City. Fourteen houses are still available in this Howard County community, with base prices from $1.04 million to $1.2 million. The houses have four or five bedrooms, three or four full baths, a three-car garage and features such as hardwood flooring, two-story foyers, 10-foot-high ceilings and a master suite with a separate sitting room, crown moldings and a luxury bathroom with a soaking tub and separate shower.
Just as with existing homes, new homes in the $1 million price range vary widely depending on location, but they share certain characteristics: floor plans that match modern tastes and the option to choose fixtures and finishes.
Michele Lerner is a freelance writer.