Musings on expensive real estate & why we decided to build

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The DC area is expensive. Not Manhattan expensive or London expensive, but still, it’s pretty bleep-ing expensive. Even out in the burbs. As a pretty ordinary twenty-something (fine – almost 30) couple, a house – a spacious, single family house on a decent sized lot – can seem like a lofty goal. After living in a one bedroom condo a lot longer than expected, we were feeling more than ready to move to a great house that we’d actually want to start a family in. We had actually decided to build our house well before we started seriously looking into it, but every time I started second guessing it, I’d take a look at some of the existing real estate and completely reaffirm our decision. I’d drive by a house for sale and think, This looks like a nice, comfortable house that I could see us in. It can’t be that much, can it? And almost always, it would be on the market for around $1M. Every once in a while I’d come across something in the $800s, but even that rare ‘bargain’ find was a couple hundred thousand out of our price range.

To give you a better idea (since I always like looking at real estate!), here are a few very random examples of some houses for sale in our area (with none of the important details – this post would probably make a real estate agent cringe!).

Here are a couple of options in our current town, Oakton:

Practically non-existent lot – $1.1M
New construction, very big house –
but it’s $2.9M!!
New townhouse community –
starting from the $700s-$800s

Further northeast in the county it’s even worse. Like in McLean? Ridickles.

Comparable size house/lot
to ours – $3.0M
.18 acres, icky house –
$600s (our price range)
And just for fun – this one’s
listed for a cool $32.0M

The town where we ended up buying our land, Burke, is definitely on the more reasonable side (otherwise we never could have afforded to buy land there!), but still it’s tough to find something that’s a great fit or that isn’t just a little too expensive.

House we could actually afford –
$600K
New houses, itty bitty lots –
from the mid $700s
Similar to ours but smaller & much smaller lot – $700s

So to get what we wanted within our budget, it just seemed like it made the most sense to build our own house, on our own lot. Which is not to say that we’re getting everything we want – we certainly had to make some concessions, but I feel like building gave us some more flexibility to pick exactly which concessions we wanted to make.

Even though the process can be really, really (really) slow. C’mon house, can’t you just be built already?!

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