From the ground up: The good and the bad in building a new home

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According to the United States Census Bureau, new home sales are defined as occurring “with the signing of a sales contract or the acceptance of a deposit.” That said, most new homes sales happen while the house is still under construction or not even started. Only 25 percent of new houses are sold at the time of completion, the Census Bureau concludes.

A significant portion of recent Charlottesville home sales has been new construction. Nest Realty, an area real estate agency, released the Nest Report for the third quarter of 2012 last month. In the report, Nest predicts that the percentage of Charlottesville City condominium sales will drop due to the fact that “there are no more developer-owned units available at Walker Square.” Presumably, despite new developments in the works or recently completed, such as Monticello View condos and houses in the new Huntley development, new homes are still in short supply.

The Nest Report also states that “over the last three quarters, the cost of building materials has been increasing, and based on the information we are receiving, core building material costs are continuing to rise […] If building materials continue to creep upwards, it could negatively affect the demand for new housing.”

When building a new home, there are nearly countless costs to consider, especially as the market fluctuates. That is why it is important to, as the folks at Summit Custom Homes of Virginia say, “Build it On Paper First.” Beyond the basic structural materials, countertops, fixtures and other finishing items can add up fast and push the buyer past an intended budget. There are larger considerations as well, such as the physical location of the home.

Charles MacDonald, with Charlottesville Real Estate Solutions, discusses the importance of choosing a building site on his blog ( “The process of selecting a home site is much more complex than just what fits a client’s budget. The topography of the lot is a major factor and you actually should have a good idea of what your home design will be so that you can see if the two work together. There are also several other things to consider: power, water, easements and line of sight.”

Beyond the seemingly small issues that crop up when deciding whether to build a new home, there is the larger impact to consider. Despite advances in eco-savvy building, the most environmentally responsible option is still to use and repurpose what already exists. Another thought is how new construction affects the surrounding community.

Jim Duncan, in a comment on his website, touched on his own struggle with the dilemmas of new development. He wrote, “As a real estate agent, ostensibly new growth is good. But I fear that with where things are going, we are losing much of what makes our area special […] In Crozet, while I absolutely enjoy and appreciate some of the changes that we have experienced: coffee shops, grocery store etc., I moved there knowing that those things did not exist. […] The growth per se does not disturb me personally, it is the homogenization that does.”

As the local real estate market continues to find its footing, and buyers evaluate available houses, new construction will likely hold onto its appeal to those with the resources to make a home uniquely theirs.