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The Builders are Back

By Cameron Ansari

After a year-long hiatus speculative builders are back in River Oaks with a good selection of new houses in the pipeline.

And, if you’re in the market, you will find it refreshing that you won’t have to settle for a huge white box with a pastiche of neoclassical details affixed to the front. It is encouraging that there is a greater selection of builders, with a variety of design ideas. If there is a new trend, we would describe it as English Renaissance.

Texture is back, and we don’t mean just more slurried brick. Painted brick – and just plain old brick – as well as shingles and wood are some of the proposed exterior finishes. Inevitably, there is plenty of stucco coming, too. Some builders explain their stucco preference with the claim that it provides the homeowner with an additional linear foot of construction space in each direction – brick, on the other hand, requires a ledge of about six inches on each side of the foundation. One can’t help imagining that it’s also because it is less expensive to install (though not as economical to maintain).

For the most part, house sizes have moderated – there are a couple of exceptions on larger lots. The overly large new-construction houses of recent years were mostly purchased by buyers coming from outside the area, who had different expectations of what a River Oaks house should be and, let’s face it, not much choice.

Buyers from within River Oaks itself, with the exception of those who truly need von Trapp-sized accommodations, no more want an excessively large house than they want a home that is embellished to excess.

Risk mitigation by builders may also explain the moderation. The economic climate in 2016 may have downsized builders’ price ambitions, despite the fact that many of them purchased these lots at boom-time prices. The traditional lot price/final house price ratios have gone out the window, which is not a healthy situation.

So, here are some of the choices, by area:

East of Kirby (including Kirby Drive itself)

The largest two offerings, and the priciest, are on Kirby Drive. The location is offset by larger lot sizes, both more than half an acre. Helpfully, neither have driveway access on Kirby Drive but on less-busy side streets.

One of the houses will be larger than 9,000 square feet – that’s larger than the lot size on most of the other offerings – and features an underground rotating multi-car bay and wine cellar. Construction has not begun as of mid-March. The list price will be approximately $8.5 million. This is the second project in River Oaks by this builder.

The other comes in at around 8,000 square feet. Knowing the builder, we think this will be a handsome addition to the many great original houses on Kirby Drive. The construction is already well underway. The elevations and interior finishes are expected to be elegant and of tasteful high quality. The price will be about $7.5 million. The builder has completed half a dozen projects in River Oaks. This will be a good one.

East of Kirby, there are three less-expensive projects underway – smaller houses, at around 5,000 square feet, priced at about $650 per square foot. They are on smaller lots, in the 8,000 square foot range. Completion dates vary from late-Spring 2017 to early 2018. All three builders are new to the neighborhood.

In addition, there is one project about to pour foundation with an estimated price in the mid-$5 million range. It is a larger house, more than 8,000 square feet, which is ambitiously sized for the 13,000 square foot lot. We will be looking forward to how it progresses. This is the first project in River Oaks for the builder.

West of Kirby

There are two upcoming houses in the western reaches of Chevy Chase. One is nearing completion and should be ready for occupancy this Summer. An approximately 6,500 square foot house on a modest 8,000 square foot lot, it will be priced in the low $4 millions. The builder has completed multiple projects in River Oaks.

The other has not yet broken ground, and plans are still being finalized. It should be completed by Spring 2018. The good thing about this one is that it is on an oversized lot. It is a good builder with a track record in River Oaks.

One other is currently planned for the north side of Olympia, scheduled for Summer 2018 delivery.

St. John’s area

There are two projects currently getting underway. A 7,500-square-foot house on a large lot in a good location will be priced at around $6 million. A smaller house, 6,200 square feet on a 10,000-square-foot lot will be priced in the mid-$3 millions.

Most of the ongoing construction in the St. John’s area is custom.

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If you would like more information about new construction in River Oaks, with insight about location, configuration and specific builders, please give us a call at 713-240-2611. We would love to work with you.


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