News and updates from Suburban Builders of Virginia

5 Mistakes to Avoid when Planning a Custom Home in Arlington, VA

As a leading luxury custom home builder in Northern Virginia since 1998 with hundreds of luxury custom homes in our portfolio, we wanted to share some “lessons learned” with regard to the custom home planning process. We believe they will be useful as you begin your home building process.

Choose the right lot for your dream home

You probably already have a general idea about where you would like to build, but be cautious about purchasing the last lot in a neighborhood. There may be a good reason why it is the last lot.  Location, location, location is an old adage, but it still holds true today, especially in predicting future real estate value. Look carefully at the surrounding homes and their resale value and appeal, the smallest and largest home in a neighborhood is often the hardest to sell. The design and style of your home should be similar to those in the neighborhood: a stucco home will look misplaced next to Victorian styled homes.

Never act as your own general contractor

On the surface, you may think that owning a business or managing a professional team qualifies you to manage a home building project, but you will save money and stay on schedule if you hire a custom home builder. Managing the extensive process on your own could be disastrous to your bottom line and the finished product.  When you choose a reputable and qualified builder like Suburban Builders, you can rest assured that the company has already established relationships with subcontractors for each part of the job and will keep the project on time and on budget. They will act as the general contractor and project manager, checking in daily on progress and possible delays, and reporting back to you.

Do your best not to alter design plans in a significant way as the process moves forward

Once you’ve selected a builder, work hard to finalize plans and do not start the build unless you are completely confident with the plans. Moving doors or windows, for example, may seem like an easy task, but can have a domino effect on beams, walls, and the like. Similarly, moving a laundry room to the upstairs to be closer to the bedrooms means moving plumbing, venting, electrical lines and many other “hidden” processes.

Stay informed with weekly updates

Once the ground has been moved and construction begins, your builder should provide you with updates about the progress and timeline of your project. We are hands-on and pride ourselves in knowing each client. Your main point of contact throughout the process will be an experienced construction professional and a client liaison. They will visit your site each day and provide communication to you throughout the process. Suburban’s owner is also available for all clients. When choosing a builder, make sure that communication is a top priority and if they are not meeting your needs during the process, do not be afraid to address it quickly.

Consider buffer room in your budget for interior items

It’s essential to have a budget and to stick to it, but consider keeping contingency dollars for items such as cabinetry, flooring, and décor. Often you may discover a new flooring product or lighting fixture that you simply “must have” but it will put you over budget. Allow some wiggle room to make those changes on the fly as the process moves inside the home. Feel confident in your interior design choices, but also realize that interior design can be changed with trends, lifestyles, and your evolving tastes. Have fun choosing paint colors, trim, lighting, and décor – this is one of the benefits of building a custom home.

When you’re ready, give us a call or set up an appointment so we can help you design and build your luxury custom home in Northern Virginia.

Suburban Smart Home Technology

If you’re thinking about building a new custom home, smart home technology should be an essential part of the design. What does smart home technology do? Quite simply, it puts your devices to work for you, simplifying tasks, making daily routines more efficient, and making better use of resources like energy and water. In short, it makes life run more smoothly and with greater ease – all with the touch of a button. We are proud to say that Suburban Builders specializes in smart home technology.
When Suburban Builders incorporates smart home tech into its custom homes, all devices can be managed from an app on a smartphone or tablet, anywhere and anytime. The utilities can also be controlled in the home on wall-mounted controllers.

At the press of a button, a homeowner can:

  1. turn on or dim lights – an excellent security feature
  2. manage music playback to specific speakers – perfect for entertaining
  3. adjust the temperature in a specific zone – useful for specific times of day and designated rooms
  4. view or manage security cameras, alarms, and door locks – easy to let in guests, contractors, etc.

As mentioned, the most common smart home technologies include:

  • Home theater and entertainment
  • Home audio
  • Lighting – from fixtures to window blinds
  • Security and monitoring
  • Communications
  • Comfort – heating and cooling
  • Kitchen appliances

Suburban Builders guarantees that each custom home will deliver four to five bars of WiFi in every room on each floor, as well as outside, in green spaces and poolside. Suburban Builders works with a preferred partner, Control4, to “make your home the smartest on the block” as their slogan says.

Control4 prewires nearly every room and outside areas to control speakers, televisions, HVAC, lighting, door locks, alarms, video cameras, security systems and keypads. The installation also wires Internet throughout the home and property to ensure plentiful wireless access points, translating to high levels of WiFi throughout.

When you are ready, give us a call or set up an appointment so we can help you design and build your custom smart home in Northern Virginia.

Ten Steps Toward Building Your Dream Custom Home in Arlington, VA Part 2

6.    Assess your needs

When planning your dream custom home, it is essential to think about and write down your list of “needs”. Think about items such as these:

  • What style do you gravitate towards – in terms of interior design and exterior architecture?
  • How much natural light and open space do you require?
  • How much time do you and guests spend in the kitchen? Do you need multiple seating, entertaining and preparation areas?
  • Do you need large amounts of storage inside (walk-in closets, linen closets, wine storage and the like) and outside (garages for vehicles, boats, recreational vehicles)?
  • Do you want an equal number of bathrooms and bedrooms?
  • Do you require outside “fenced in” space for your children or pets?

Once you have answered these types of questions, your initial meeting with the homebuilder will be much more seamless for all involved.

7.    Dream about your wants

Very often in the process, a client’s “wants” can effortlessly be integrated into the home’s design and function, without adding expense or time to the project. To help you create a list of “wants” think about some of these questions:

  • Do you plan to remain in the home through your golden years? If so, you may want to consider a bedroom and bathroom on the first level, near the kitchen.
  • Do you plan to have more children?
  • Do you have frequent overnight guests? How long do they typically stay?
  • What aspects of the kitchen design are on your wish list?
  • Would you like your home’s security, lights, and entertainment centers to be centralized and WiFi enabled?

8.    Think about functionality early

Along with a home’s design, functionality is critical and should be assessed early in the home planning process. Frank Lloyd Wright insisted that form follow function, and there was a reason for it. Décor and furnishings can easily be adjusted as trends and personal whims change but functionality is more difficult and costly to adjust. If you prefer open floor plans, then that should be part of your initial design, since walls may be difficult to move especially if they are load-bearing. If you prefer ample natural light and easy access to the outdoors, this will inform your window/door design and placement.

Lights, security systems, entertainment systems, smart thermostats/appliances, and WiFi access are all items that need to function at a high level and the technology/wiring is integrated early in the building process. Our team will work with you to ensure that your home lives and breathes efficiently and smoothly, so you can focus on more important matters like your family and business endeavors.

9.    Future goals for family

Take some time to think about your family’s future needs, as this will impact your home’s design and function.   As your children grow, they will need more space inside and outside to explore, play and expend their energy. For example, you may want to add a pool or spa, an indoor exercise area/home gym, or a multi-media room for watching movies. Allow some freedom in your flex space planning to add these items in the future.

10.  Choosing a building partner

While we offer luxury, we also offer value. Our established relationships with vendors and suppliers give us buying power. We purchase materials at the lowest possible market prices without sacrificing quality, and we pass those savings directly on to our clients.

When it comes to the most expensive purchase of your life, you should not take chances with an inexperienced homebuilder. We have completed hundreds of luxury custom homes since 1998 in a wide range of styles and locations. Our reputation for excellence is unparalleled in the Northern Virginia luxury custom home market. Our qualified and certified team will oversee your home building process from financing through construction, including permitting and inspections, to finally welcoming you home – all within a shorter timeframe.

We are hands-on and pride ourselves in knowing each client. Our small size allows us to make changes on the fly and suggest tweaks along the way – such as flooring, wall coverings or finishes – to improve the end product. Your main point of contact throughout the process will be an experienced construction professional and a client liaison. They will visit your site each day and provide communication to you throughout the process. Suburban’s owner is also available 24/7 for each client.

When you move in to your home, that’s not the end of the process for us or for you. We provide a comprehensive warranty on the home and stand behind it even after the warranty is completed. Our reputation depends on your total and complete satisfaction – many years into the future.

When you’re ready, give us a call or set up an appointment so we can help you design and build your luxury custom home in Northern Virginia.

Ten steps toward building your dream custom home in Arlington, VA Part 1

Making the decision to build your dream custom home in Arlington and Fairfax, Virginia takes time, research, and careful planning. We have been luxury custom homebuilders since 1998 and have built hundreds of homes in Great Falls, Arlington, and Falls Church City and elsewhere in Northern Virginia. We would like to share some of that experience with you.

1.    Neighborhood research

There are a wide array of neighborhoods in Arlington, Virginia and in other nearby areas such as Great Falls, McLean, Vienna and Fairfax. Home to the Pentagon, several museums, luxury shopping and dining for every palate, Arlington, VA, is an impressive and diverse city.  Homeowners enjoy a rich historical background, a thriving business and entertainment community, and beautiful, established neighborhoods. Many of the neighborhoods date to the middle 1800s, but you can also find brand new neighborhoods if you desire.

One website that provides detailed information about neighborhoods is Neighborhood Scout. This particular link shows you a map of Arlington divided into neighborhoods with color-coding based on house value by neighborhood.

Another useful website is the Urban Institute, which classifies neighborhood characteristics such as arts and culture, economic development, and the like.

 Neighborhood Scout is yet another useful tool to analyze comprehensive neighborhood specific demographics including housing prices, school performance, crime rates, and real estate forecasts.

2.    Lot purchase

The purchase of a lot in this region averages $600,000. If you have already purchased a lot, congratulations! Our team of professionals will coordinate relevant due diligence including soil testing, topographical surveys, zoning regulations, and architectural review board guidelines. All of this information is critical for the custom design and building process.

3.    Determine your budget

As most people realize, building a custom home is the investment of a lifetime. Once you determine your budget, Suburban Builders will help you work with qualified lenders from across Northern Virginia to find the appropriate package for your current needs and long-term financial goals. In general, we work with families who wish to invest $800,000-$1.5 million on a luxury custom home or $200,000 or more in a large-scale renovation or addition.

4.    Obtain financing

Our nearly twenty years of experience means that we have already navigated the process hundreds of times, giving us rapport with lending institutions and financial advisors from across the region. We provide assist in securing financing to make your dream home a reality.

5.    Don’t delay selling your current home

After the permit process, Suburban Builders is able to build most luxury custom homes in 5-6 months, versus 8-10 months with our competitors. Some parts of the construction process are limited by extremely cold weather such as concrete sidewalks, stone driveways and masonry work, but we have workarounds in place to ensure the most efficient timeline.

The months pass quickly once the process is started. Now is the time to get your current home on the market.  We can recommend real estate agents who excel at selling homes like yours.

We hope you have found these tips helpful in your custom home building process.

Read the next five steps here.

What is the step-by-step process of doing a major renovation in Arlington, VA?

If you are planning a major renovation or addition to a home in Arlington, VA* you will likely need to navigate Arlington County’s permitting requirements. This may be a daunting task, and therefore it is smart to partner with an experienced builder like Suburban Builders. We work with a small portfolio of high-end clients, ensuring that you receive the attention you deserve and that all necessary paperwork is filed in a timely manner.

While every project will have its own details and timeline, Suburban Builders has experience with all aspects of the process – including planning, permitting, inspection, occupation, and maintenance.

Planning
In terms of planning, we will determine your zone and the specific regulations that apply to your situation. We are familiar with the Zoning Ordinances: the types of projects that each zone allows. Most projects will require one or a series of permits and inspections; some may require a public hearing. We will determine which documents are required.

Most construction and large-scale renovation projects also require similar permitting. All new projects must follow the 2012 Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code. Suburban Builders knows this code inside and out. We prepare your building estimates with permitting fees incorporated into the cost. We eliminate any surprise fees, since you are prepared up-front.

Permitting
Suburban Builders will gather all of the required materials necessary for the residential permit process and will submit the plans for review on your behalf. We also manage the process to ensure construction moves along as smoothly as possible within the county’s permitting system. Residential express reviews can usually be done in two days. Residential route-through reviews require more time, usually 1-2 weeks. Once approval is received, a residential permit is issued and construction can begin.
Depending on the project, there may be several points in the building process that require inspections, such as electrical or plumbing. We will navigate those requirements making sure specific milestones are met.
Inspection

As mentioned, there may be several points in the building process that require inspections. We will navigate those requirements making sure inspections are scheduled and completed on time. A list of all required inspections can be found here. At this point in the process, your project may be completed, and you will receive a Certificate of Occupancy.

Maintenance
As with any home or large-scale renovation, maintenance is key. According to the county’s website, property inspectors, both proactively and in response to your input, look for these issues:

  • General exterior: broken windows, peeling paint, defective gutters
  • General interior: peeling paint, defective handrails (stair elements)
  • Light, ventilation and occupancy limitations: defective windows, defective exhaust fans
  • Plumbing facilities and fixture requirements: supply and volume of water, adequacy of fixtures
  • Mechanical and electrical requirements: defective electrical system/defective heating, defective receptacle(s)
  • Fire safety requirements: defective/missing smoke detectors; egress

When you move in after the renovation, this is not the end of the process for Suburban Builders. We provide a comprehensive warranty on the home and stand behind it – even after the warranty is completed. Our reputation depends on your total and complete satisfaction – many years into the future.

When you’re ready for a large-scale renovation, please give us a call. We will help you transform your existing space to create a new luxurious environment.

Seven signs of a quality and qualified homebuilder in Arlington, VA

Selecting a builder is one of the most important decisions to make during your custom home building process. Do not take the decision lightly. Take the time to thoroughly research prospective custom homebuilders in Arlington, VA.   Check references from current and past clients and meet builders face-to-face to make sure that your vision aligns with their expertise.   Before a final decision, you should feel confident and comfortable that you’re making the right choice for you and your family. Feelings of trepidation or uncertainty about the process or end result are both red flags to continue your search.

Here are a few steps to help you select a quality and qualified builder in Arlington, VA and elsewhere in Northern Virginia.

First and foremost, define your needs. Think carefully and clearly about the size, style, and price range of the home you and your family need and can afford.

Another item that should be at the top of your list is experience.  While every builder has to start with his or her first project, don’t let a new builder use your home as a “guinea pig”.  With 20 years of experience, Suburban’s team has built hundreds of homes in a wide range of styles and locations. Our reputation for excellence is unparalleled in the Northern Virginia luxury custom home market. Our qualified and certified team will oversee your home building process from financing through construction, including permitting and inspections, to finally welcoming you home – all within an agreed upon timeframe.

Next, do some background checking to ensure that past buyers and current clients are satisfied with the process:

  • Did the builder manage client budget expectations and stay within the agreed upon costs?
  • Did the end result look like what they had envisioned in the beginning?
  • Would a past client choose the builder again or recommend to a family member?
  • Ask for specifics about why a client chose that builder– what set them apart in their mind?

Check to see if the builder has all state-required licenses and insurances and has experience working in the area where you’re seeking to build your home. Each town and municipality has differing permitting requirements and it’s helpful if the builder already has established relationships in that neighborhood.

Does the builder provide a warranty that makes you feel confident in their work? Suburban Builders provides a comprehensive warranty on the home and stands behind it even after the warranty is completed.  We put ourselves in our customer’s shoes and if something is not up to par – even past the warranty timeframe – we most likely go in and fix it free of charge. Our reputation is everything and word of mouth drives our future business.

Look at the resale value of past homes from the builder. Do they increase in value or at the very least maintain their value over time? One way to investigate this is to reach out to a few local qualified realtors to see if they are familiar with the builder and the average resale value of their homes.

Finally, and there is no substitute for this step, visit some “sample” homes built by the builder. Look for signs of quality in the workmanship and materials used.

When you’re ready, give us a call or set up an appointment so we can help you design and build your luxury custom home in Northern Virginia.

What You Need to Know Before Building a Custom Home in Arlington, VA

If you’ve found your way to our website and this article, you’re probably dreaming of, planning for, saving for, or ready to choose a custom home builder in Arlington, VA or elsewhere in Northern Virginia.

As a leading luxury custom home builder in Northern Virginia since 1998 with literally hundreds of luxury custom homes in our portfolio, we wanted to share four tips to consider – things you need to know before building a custom home in this region.

First and foremost, even before you determine a realistic budget and financing, take the time to assess your family’s current needs and future goals.

If you have a partner in this endeavor, conversations are vital and take time. Be ready to disagree on some items and be willing to compromise. When you eventually meet with and choose a custom home builder, you’ll be on the same page.    Design, style, and “must haves” facilitate a smoother custom building process.

These needs- and goals-assessment conversations can be general or specific and may include questions like:

  • Where does your family spend the majority of time in your home?
  • How might your lifestyle change over the next 5 to 10 years?
  • How many children do you have and how old are they?
  • Do you plan to have more children?
  • Do you prefer formal rooms or more casual spaces?
  • Do you have frequent overnight guests? How long do they typically stay?

Next, it’s time to think about your budget and financing. As most people realize, building a custom home is the investment of a lifetime. We work with qualified lenders across Northern Virginia who stay abreast of regional housing market trends and appropriate packages for your current needs and long-term goals. In general, we work with families who wish to invest $800,000-$1.5 million on a luxury custom home or $200,000 or more in a large-scale renovation or addition. We work with a small portfolio of clients at one time, ensuring that you receive the attention you deserve.

Northern Virginia offers ample housing choices – from urban to suburban to scenic and neighborhoods in-between – so choosing a location can take time and research. Let us assist you in this critical decision! Lot sizes can vary widely, so think carefully about your lifestyle when choosing the desired location.  Or, if you already purchased a lot, our team of professionals will coordinate relevant due diligence including soil testing, topographical surveys, zoning regulations, and architectural review board guidelines. All of this information is critical in informing the custom design and building process.

Finally, when choosing a luxury custom home designer and builder, consider the following: experience, access to professionals throughout the process, and accountability. When it comes to the most expensive purchase of your life, you should not take chances with an inexperienced homebuilder.  Suburban Homes has completed hundreds of luxury custom homes since 1998 in a wide range of styles and locations. Our reputation for excellence is unparalleled in the Northern Virginia luxury custom home market. Our qualified and certified team will oversee your home building process from financing through construction, including permitting and inspections, to finally welcoming you home – all within our 5-month timeframe.

We are hands-on and pride ourselves in knowing each client. Our client-focused size allows us to make changes on the fly and suggest tweaks along the way – such as flooring, wall coverings or finishes – to improve the end product. Your main point of contact throughout the process will be an experienced construction professional and you have direct access to our owner, John 24/7.   The team visits your site every day and provides feedback to you throughout the process.

When you move in to your home, that’s not the end of the process for us or for you. We provide a comprehensive warranty on the home and stand behind it even after the warranty is completed. Our reputation depends on your total and complete satisfaction – many years into the future.

When you’re ready, give us a call or set up an appointment so we can help you design and build your luxury custom home in Northern Virginia.

Choosing the Right Neighborhood in Arlington, VA

There are a wide array of neighborhoods in Arlington, Virginia and in others nearby such as Great Falls, McLean, Vienna and Fairfax. Home to the Pentagon, several museums, luxury shopping and dining for every palate, Arlington, VA, is an impressive and diverse city.   Beautiful, established neighborhoods with a rich historical background surround a thriving business and entertainment community.  Many of the neighborhoods date to the middle 1800s, but new neighborhoods have created ideal lots for custom luxury home building.

Arlington’s fantastic neighborhoods didn’t happen by accident – urban planning, urban design and smart, planned growth can take much of the credit.

Arlington includes not one, but two Metrorail corridors (Rosslyn-Ballston and Jefferson Davis/US Route 1) and urban planners have worked over the course of decades to concentrate development activity in key areas to assist in building a strong local economy and thriving business districts.

Much of the land in Arlington is dedicated to planned residential neighborhoods, such as Ballston, Cherrydale, Clarendon, Columbia Pike, Courthouse, Crystal City, East Falls Church, Nauck, Pentagon City, Rosslyn, Shirlington and Virginia Square.

One website that provides detailed information about neighborhoods is Neighborhood Scout. This particular link shows you a map of Arlington broken up into neighborhoods and shows color-coding based on the house value by neighborhood.

Some Arlington, VA neighborhoods to consider for your luxury custom home include:

  1. Rivercrest / Riverwood
  2. Country Club Hills / Marymount U
  3. Clarendon
  4. Cherrydale / Lee Heights
  5. Aurora Hills

According to Neighborhood Scout’s research, the top five neighborhoods have a great deal in common, with median real estate prices averaging $1 million. The value and pristine maintenance of these homes yields high resale values of homes on the market.

It is also clear that these neighborhoods employ upper-level white-collar workers, on average upwards of 75% of the residents are employed in executive, management and professional occupations. The second most important occupational group in this neighborhood is government jobs, whether they are in local, state, or federal positions. While public transportation is available, the majority of commuters choose to drive to work.

A high level of education is also a commonality between all five neighborhoods. More than half of residents have a masters, law degree, medical degree, or Ph.D. Compare that to the average neighborhood in America, where just 8.4% of adults have completed a post-graduate degree, and it’s clear to see why these neighborhoods are so impressive.

When you’re ready, give us a call or set up an appointment so we can help you design and build your luxury custom home in Northern Virginia.