How to Build a Home in the Washington, D.C., Metro Area

The exterior of the Windsor plan by Mid-Atlantic Builders features a stately brick Colonial exterior, columns and a second-story porch.

Are you interested in building a new home in the DC area, like this one by Mid-Atlantic Builders? First find a builder that fits your needs. Photo courtesy of Mid-Atlantic Builders. A new home at Parkside at Westphalia in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Building a home of your own is the American dream. Having something you’ve created yourself, with all those personal touches, drives more of us to look for an opportunity to do just that.

Building a home in the Washington, D.C., area can present some challenges. The Capital Beltway takes in Bethesda, Md., and Silver Springs, Md., to the north and Alexandria, Va., in the south. The cost of land within the Beltway is at a premium, so making wise decisions before, during and after the building process is key.

How to Build a Home in the DC Metro Area

1. Finding Land

The population in the DC Metro area is at an all-time high and continues to grow. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the DC Metro is growing by 900 new residents per month. Finding open land is a challenge.

However, if you’re building a new home, you have two options to find land. The best way is to work with a reputable homebuilder who has homes under construction in new or existing subdivisions. It saves you having to find the lot, hire an architect to design the home, then finding a custom homebuilder to complete the build. With this type of new construction, you can work with a production builder or a custom builder, and you get to put the finishing touches on the home, without headaches. A quality Realtor can work with you to find the new homebuilder to help you put the finishing touches on an almost-complete home.

Since the number of open lots may be limited, the other way to find land is to buy an existing home, tear it down, then rebuild on the lot, typically called “infill building.”

With so many older homes in the DC Metro area, it’s relatively easy to find homes and lots that fit the bill. And while you can build the home of your dreams on the lot of your choice, there may be some zoning challenges. Hiring a builder or an architect before you start looking at lots will save you time and money, as the builder or architect can tell you whether your home will even fit on the lot.

2. Finding a Builder

Finding the right builder depends on whether you’re building a home from scratch, on your own lot or buying an almost-complete home from a builder. The National Association of Home Builders advises consumers to plan carefully by making a list of possible homebuilders, doing research and not jumping at the lowest price for a home (is the home a quality home?)?

How Long Will It Take?

According to the 2016 Survey of Construction from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average time to complete a single-family home is 7.5 months.

The time it takes can vary, based on whether you’re buying an existing home and tearing it down, building on a vacant lot or purchasing a home that’s almost complete. It also depends on how complex the new home construction is, as well as weather, zoning, permits and so on.

Regardless which way you go, when you’re looking at building a home in the Washington, D.C., area, there’s nothing like coming home from work to the home of your dreams.
Laurie Leiker is a published author, business coach and consumer advocate. She spent 10 years as producer and on-air investigator for the Troubleshooter Tom Martino radio show in Denver, Colo., where she helped consumers get back more than $2 million in one year.

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