Finding a Builder to Construct Your Custom Home on Your Lot

By Suzanne Whitenight Pilcher, Marketing Coordinator, Long & Foster Companies.

Perhaps you were lucky enough to inherit property or bought a parcel of land to build your dream home. Now, how do you select the right builder to construct the home you’ve envisioned? Whatever style and size home you’re building, you’ll want to know you’re purchasing a good quality home from a reputable builder.

Where do you start?

It’s best to find companies who are familiar with the building codes in your area, according to Pauline Dent, director of builder & developer services with the Long & Foster New Homes division. Each jurisdiction has specific building codes, so you’ll want to hire someone who knows the codes and can comply with them. The National Association of Homebuilders offers a list of local builders on their website.  In addition, a real estate agent familiar with custom home building can be a great resource.

What’s the builder’s specialty and reputation?

Whether it’s a traditional colonial, modern or craftsman-style home you have in mind, take a look at pictures of the houses each builder has constructed. Ask how many homes they have built that are similar to the design you have in mind.  Then, go to see the products they’ve built in the last few years.

In addition, ask for personal testimonials from past clients. Dent adds you’ll want to talk to a variety of customers, in every stage of owning – meaning those that recently moved in, individuals who have lived in the home less than two years and people who have lived in their houses longer than two years. Ask them if the work was completed on time and on budget and if they had any major issues during construction. Your real estate agent may also have had some experience with the builder to help attest to their reputation.

How much will it cost?

Although it’s important to hire a qualified builder, finding one who can construct a home in your price range is just as critical. Gather quotes from the list of builders you’ve collected and be sure you understand what’s included in each quote. For instance, does the price include site and finish work, landscaping and clean-up of the property? What level of finishings will be included – will you have granite or laminate countertops?

Site work, including land clearing and grading, the construction of driveways and walkways, installation of utilities, permits and fees, can cost more than $60,000 in some areas, according to John Jorgenson, a leading new homes agent in Long & Foster’s McLean, Virginia, office. Check to be sure your builder includes it in the price or you’ll have to budget for these necessary costs.

Just as with any new home purchase, a knowledgeable Realtor can help you find a reputable builder and can guide you through the homebuilding process.

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Call to Action: Fine Tune Your Home for Fall & Winter

Get Your Home Ready for Fall & Winter with these Helpful Maintenance Tips

Now that fall has arrived, it’s time to turn your attention to your home. The changing of the season always acts as a call to action for fine-tuning your home, and the onset of fall is no different. Below, we’ll share with you 10 tips for getting your home ready for cooler weather.

  1. Check out your furnace. Nothing is worse than discovering your furnace is out-of-order on that first chilly fall night. Turn it on to make sure it is working, change filters and consider calling a professional to have it cleaned.
  2. Clean out humidifiers and change filters.  Prepare your humidifier for winter’s dry air by cleaning it and changing the filter to prevent bacteria and mold from polluting your indoor air.
  3. Reverse your fan. By switching the direction your ceiling fans, you will push warm air down into your home. While many people overlook this tip when readying their homes for fall, it is an easy way to save on energy bills and keep you more comfortable in your home.
  4. Bring in or cover outdoor furniture.  The winter weather can cause a lot of wear and tear on patio furniture and grills.  If you don’t have indoor space to store your furniture, tightly cover them using waterproof tarp.
  5. Rake your leaves. Left on the grass, leaves can deprive your lawn from receiving needed sunlight and wet leaves on the ground can lead to mold growth.
  6. Clean your gutters. After summer, you might find a fair amount of debris lodged in your gutters, so make sure to give them a good clean now. Leaves can cause real problems when the temperatures drop, especially if you don’t remove them before the arrival of snow and ice.
  7. Trim shrubbery.  Prune hedges that have become overgrown. Once shrubbery has been trimmed, be sure to haul away all debris.
  8. Turn off hose valves and drain hoses. Shut off the outside water supply from the inside to prevent frozen pipes. Also, drain water out of hoses to prevent them from bursting.
  9. Check your roof. It can be miserable to have a roof leak during a snowstorm.  Having a licensed professional inspect it before the snow arrives can be a good move and save you considerable headaches later.
  10. Look for leaks. Walk the perimeter of your home and survey the basement, keeping an eye out for obvious leaks. Leaks and cracks not only can allow destructive moisture into your home, but also can invite critters inside. Once you’ve found a leak, seal it with weather-resistant caulk.

A fall weekend or two spent preparing your home for the cooler weather will help prevent costly repairs later and keep your home running in good condition all winter.

Pop-Up Staging: Inexpensive Method to Set the Selling Scene

Set the Selling Scene with Pop-Up Staging

RISMEDIA, Tuesday, August 23, 2016— Staging is a sizable expense for home sellers, who spend hundreds—even thousands— appointing their homes to web- and show-ready state. The National Association of REALTORS® reports the median spend on staging is $675, and according to StagedHomes.com, professional staging services average $3,000 to $5,000. Add remodeling expenditures to the tally, and the cost is considerable.

Enter pop-up staging, a new, inexpensive method that can eliminate the cost of not only hiring a stager, but also renting, transporting and storing décor and furniture. Flat-pack pieces made of lightweight materials like cardboard and corrugated plastic “pop up” in each room, effectively setting the scene as real housewares (and stage productions!) would.

One pop-up sets provider, Dandy Pack, purveys slip-covered cardboard furniture sturdy enough to withstand 1,000-plus pounds without collapsing. The company’s starter kit, which includes a full/queen bed, a sofa, an oversized chair and an ottoman, costs $1,031. The pieces, which ship in as few as two business days, can be assembled by the listing agent or the seller, further controlling costs.


Credit: Dandy Pack

inFormed Space, another pop-up staging vendor currently operating in New York City, supplies similar products made of plastic (assembled with hidden magnets), as well as set-up and break-down services. Two months of staging by the company starts at $1,899, and set-up can take just one afternoon.


Credit: The New York Times

Both products’ neutral finishes achieve the goal of conventional staging: de-personalization, minus the sparseness of a vacant space. Both render superbly in online listing images, drawing interest as traditionally staged homes do, and their clean lines read contemporary, but accessible.

Will pop-up staging become the new norm? With savings to be had, we won’t close the curtain on these prop pieces any time soon.

This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for top real estate tips and trends.

How to Renovate Your Home without Exceeding Neighborhood Value

How to Renovate Your Home without Exceeding Neighborhood Value

by Courtney Soinski

Before you decide to renovate your home, it’s important to understand that not all renovations will increase the value. It is certainly possible to over-remodel, and you don’t want it to exceed the value of your neighbors’ homes. Here are some ways to get the highest return on investment (ROI) possible when the time comes to sell your home.

Projects always worth your while

There are specific renovation projects that can deliver the greatest effect on your ROI, regardless of the real estate market’s current state or the value of surrounding homes. According to real estate expert Robert Stammers in a recent article in Investopedia, these can be projects such as an addition of a wood deck, kitchen and bathroom upgrades as well as window replacements.

shutterstock_117312145Factor in location

A common mistake that homeowner tend to make is renovating their homes to the point where it exceeds the value of surrounding homes. The fact of the matter is that people look in a specific neighborhood because of its proximity to nearby businesses or recreation and it’s in their price range. If improvements done to your home are much higher than homes around you, it’s unlikely that they’ll want to pay more for those improvements, even if they’re interested.

Make improvements that will add value over time

Some home improvements, like upgrading the technological features of a home, will not have a lasting impact, and may even bring down the home value. These types of renovations are at a higher risk of becoming obsolete and outdated as years pass. Technology and styles change all the time, so focus on improvements that are less likely to be impacted by time and are worth your investment.

Renovations that will pay you back

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Regardless of whether a homeowner is planning to sell or not, the ultimate objective of taking on a renovation is to revel in the enjoyment you get from living in an updated home while gaining considerable profit from that investment. There are many tools out there that show the kind of profit you can expect from specific home remodels. A perfect example of this is Remodeling magazine’s “Cost vs. Value” annual report.

Here are some of the findings from the 2015 Remodeling                     Cost Vs. Value report:

Projects that deliver the highest percentage of return on investment

  • Entry door replacement (steel): 101.8%
  • Garage door replacement: 88.4%
  • Siding replacement (fiber-cement): 84.3%
  • Siding replacement (vinyl): 80.7%
  • Deck addition (wood): 80.5%

Renovation projects that deliver the lowest percentage of return on investment 

  • Sunroom addition: 48.5%
  • Home office remodel: 48.7%
  • Master suite addition: 53.7%
  • Garage addition: 54.7%
  • Bathroom addition: 57.8%