Builders plan for a prosperous 2013

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Real Estate

With existing housing inventory scarce and buyer demand high, new home construction is making a long-awaited come back in the Washington area, and builders are optimistic for a strong showing in 2013.

"There is a lot more activity taking place throughout the area," said builder Vic Puri of SEED Homes in Arlington. "Construction in close-in areas has been ramping up. Vendors are busier, suppliers are busier, and county permitting offices are busier."

Areas like Loudoun County along Metro's new Silver Line, Ballston, Reston, Herndon, Tysons Corner and Alexandria are seeing new housing development, according to Pat Kline, chairman of the board of Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

"It seems like there is a new condo development on every corner in Alexandria," she said.

New construction is up in Fairfax County, as well. Permits for building new homes increased from 885 in fiscal year 2011 to 1,062 in 2012, according to county data. Since the fiscal year began last July, more than 400 new home permits have been issued.

"Through October of the current fiscal year, we have issued 30 percent more building permits for the construction of new homes than we did in the same time frame in FY 2012," said Debra McMahon, a code specialist with Fairfax County's Customer and Technical Support Center.

Permitting activity is increasing in the District as well, and builders are coming off the sidelines, according to Eric Murtagh, head of the new construction division at Evers & Co.

"Buyers are willing to pay a premium on new home construction," he said. "We've been seeing an increase in single-family, townhomes and condo conversion across the board in the $500,000 to $1.5 million range."

Patrick Keating, of PKK builders in Washington and suburban Maryland, said neighborhood is an important factor. He prefers building close to the Metro in Upper Northwest, Bethesda and Chevy Chase.

"2013 is a safe bet," he said. "My homes are selling before they hit the market. We've had some rough times in the past, but inventory is low and the buyers are out there. This is a good time."

Keating said buyers are specifically looking for new properties and are willing to pay in the $1.8-to-$2.2 million range for a four-bedroom house with two and a half baths and a two-car garage.

Areas in the District and Montgomery County slated for development are the U and H street corridors, Southeast near the ball park, the Southwest Waterfront and the Bethesda urban center, White Flint and the Greater Seneca Science Corridor in Maryland, said Bonnie Casper, 2012 president of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors.

"The demand is growing, and builders are beginning to ramp up," said Puri. "2012 was a good year in this area for builders. I expect more activity in 2013. During the construction downturn, the outlying areas were hit harder than the close-in areas. I expect those outlying areas to bounce back in a major way, especially out west in Loudoun."

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