House-Hunting… • 06.07.15
As per the typical ‘next step’ of a married person… we have been house hunting.
Since I work in Rockville, MD, its come to my attention that the traffic SUCKS… we might actually have to move to Maryland. WHAT… cross the BRIDGE??? I know.
And I want a house with a yard, because of course I have Sparkee… and ‘walking’ him leads to a series of arguments and negotiations with my husband…
The houses in Fairfax County are not only small rickety townhouses or split levels, but also old. Really. Old. And not cute.
Price range? I’m looking in the $5-600k. That’s just realistic for this area… for like- maybe a TH or House with SOME semblance of yard… but not even always. (Annoying!)
I know you’re like- what about Arlington or Alexandria. It just seems so far from Rockville, it’s a no-win situation.
So, my mind has wandered to the other side of the bridge and has found some nice options in MoCo and PGC. The thing is… so those houses are kind of old too. Really Old! Especially in Rockville. Im like—this house was built 30 years ago and its being listed for $495… when is that ROOF going to need replacing??
So then, I started looking at new construction.
I’m kind of familiar with new construction. There is a lot of new construction going on in MoCo and PG counties. There’s townhouses and single family homes. So here’s a rundown about what I think about the new construction.
There are 2 ways to go with new construction: find your own builder and buy your own lot, or use a corporate builder that’s building a neighborhood/community of homes.
I’ve looked into both, so heres what I know:
1) Corporate builders
These are the main builders: NVHomes, Ryan Homes, Ryland Homes, Beazer and DRHorton. There are others but these are the most visible ones and the ones I’ve worked with and spoken to.
NVHomes and Ryan Homes are actually the same company!!
– NV Homes is the more ‘upscale’ version of Ryan. So basically, NVHOmes has all the typical upgrades people want: stainless steel, hardwood floors, nice finishings, crown moulding, as standard—and charges you for it. Ryan homes start with really basic features (carpet, not even granite in some cases), smaller sized homes, and lets you upgrade if you want.
NVHomes has houses and townhouses next to all of the Ryan Homes in the same communities usually- and I’ve found them in Laurel, Silver Spring, Greenbelt, and Clarksburg (Clarksburg is so cute!!). Ryan Homes are also in the same communities.
It took me a while to see that there is no major difference between NV and Ryan except space that is or is not added in the base price, so this was a painful and frustrating going around in circles time.
Coming from the perspective that I don’t even like TH’s bc of all the stairs, I still considered them slightly… bc sometimes it seemed as if they could be a good value. (COULD). I have found that there are really only about 2 different models for TH’s, regardless on the builder: Small, and Large.
The small ones are really small These are the ones that typically range in the 1900 sq ft range. You can add the 4th floor which is not standard and runs around $40k, (they get you in with the base price of @$350k!), or, get an end unit, which is typically around $17,000 … all which end up bringing the price of the larger unit. So, what is the point of that?
B) Large –
They tend to have a good lay-out but I struggle with the notion of having the kitchen be smack in the middle of the room flanking the dining and living room on each side without any where else to go… you’ll be stuck with that ‘after dinner food smell’ every time. It makes me wonder if you always feel like you’re ‘in’ the kitchen. haha.
However, I particularly liked the NVHomes in Greenbelt. But jeeze- the price is $440k base… which means that you can buy a house with an entire yard for that price… so… depends if you actually want a TH. And hardwood floors were only standard in the kitchen and to upgrade to all hardwood was over $6k. On the plus side, these THs are big (@ 2900 sq ft) and they have a small yard. (big enough for sparkee).
In the end, I am gravitating towards ‘walkable’ friendly communities. So, there’s that. Maybe its going to be back to older homes… maybe renovated ones. We wont get into the logistics of a renovation… 😉
3) Custom Builders
Custom- of course- why not?? Well, they’re nice because they dont have ‘pre-set’ plans that have already been approved by the county so they are able to arrange the floor plan the way you want it! If you want 2 huge walk in closets, no problem! You want a side entrance? YAS! You want a bigger attic, YAS and they wont even charge you extra for ‘modifications’.
The Cons: They typically don’t build with their own money, they build with yours. So, you have to get a “construction loan”, which, believe me, is not available at all banks (particularly not FCUs), and then you have to pay the mortgage on your house as your house is being built. Translation: you will have to pay the mortgage on your un-finished house while you also pay rent on where you are temporarily living. Oh, and they usually require 10-20% down, unlike a lot of those nice more flexible mortgage loans with smaller down payments. Also, there are often extra costs for the lot, connecting to water systems, building wells, etc.
I talked to a builder the other day who was being really snarky with me because I didnt want to build a house over 3,000 square feet. They said they typically dont build homes that are under 5,000 sq ft! Im like, that’s too big. Annoying because they didn’t have any information on their website that could have saved me some time.
So, if you want to work with a custom builder, I’m sure they will build you a wonderful home, just that they aren’t really that helpful in terms of cost. 😉 If you do go this way, check out lots for sale online and in the newspaper. There is a surprising amount of land available in the DC-metro area. Not saying its cheap, but its there. 😀