With owning a home affordability getting better and home mortgage rates still near historic lows, the timing could be perfect for buying a new home. And in this relatively flat market or marginally up (at least inside the Washington DC beltway – Bethesda, Chevy Chase, McLean, Arlington, Falls Church – specifically) market, there are many options to consider. But before you start contemplating about the home style and number of bedrooms, here’s a real quick overview of some segments of the Maryland, Virginia Washington DC housing market.

1. “Resale” homes probably represent the biggest percentage of the market. Built years, or even decades ago, these homes were designed and built to reflect the requirements and the tastes of previous owners. They may be outfitted with outdated fixtures and technologies, and have poor construction. Buyers of these homes often fall in love with them for their character, their location or their “good-enough” fit with their needs, and accept the necessity of investing additional time and resources in remodeling and rebuilding.

2. “Spec” homes are built based on the speculation that a buyer can be found during or shortly after construction. These new homes may be designed with up-to-date floor plans and features to fit current preferences. When acquired before completion, a buyer may be able to select some finishing touches. But this type of home construction may also be designed to minimize cost and get the largest proceeds for the home builder, potentially leaving homeowners with less than the best materials and designs that are not as contemporary.

3.“Custom” homes are built according to the buyer’s specifications, usually on land they already own. While this type of new home construction embodies only ten percent of the market, it gives the homeowner the most control. Working with an “on your lot” custom home builder, the buyer determines all facets of home construction—from site selection to the home’s style, size and floor plan, types of windows and doors, flooring and siding, and all the details—cabinets, lighting fixtures, drawer pulls, paint colors, etc.
While “on your lot” home builders are sometimes thought of as large home builders, they can also accommodate today’s trend towards “right-sizing”. These days a custom home builder may work on smaller homes starting around 1500 square feet. Benefits include keeping material and labor costs to a minimum (potentially in the low $250,000 range), and customizable floor plans.
In keeping with price sensitive and “green” lifestyles, another benefit of working closely with a new custom home builder is the opportunity to incorporate the latest energy- and resource-efficient products and trends. Per the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), “Today’s homes are built twice as energy efficient as new homes a generation ago, making them more affordable (” The latest in energy-efficient materials¹ include windows with low-emittance (low-E) glass coatings, upgraded insulation, high efficiency HVAC systems, geo-thermal HVAC systems (check this new home in Falls Church with Geo Thermal ) house wraps and tight construction.
Federal tax credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency² may also be available for new home construction, covering 30% of the cost of materials and labor for systems such as geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, solar panels and residential fuel cells. Note that in order to qualify, these systems must be placed in service before the end of 2016.An added bonus for those considering purchases of custom homes—”Current costs ( of building a new home are relatively low,”—according to Jason Dickens, president of the Athens Area Homebuilders Association. 2009 lumber and other material prices have dropped considerably when compared to 2005. “Right now is a very good time to build a house.”
Also, if you’d like to delve into modular home design and construction or prefabricated home building techniques, let us know. We have a new home line of semi-custom homes coming out in 2011.
So, while the acquisition of an existing “resale” or “spec” home will more than likely involve trade-offs, a custom home is a good option that offers real value in function, design and satisfaction—and the fulfillment of owning the home of your dreams.

Here is a custom home in the City of Falls Church. This home is designed with features such as geo-thermal heating and cooling system, energy star appliances, energy star windows.
The new home is located 2 blocks from the retail section in the City of Falls Church. This proximity to stores and shopping contributes to LEED points.

City of Falls Church  New Home

The Falls Creek New Home Plan is Under Construction in the City of Falls Church

custom new home in the City of Falls Church

Framing using panelized construction techniques

Do Want A Custom Home That Reflects Your Lifestyle? Not Some Cookie-Cutter House
Plan You Can Find In A Magazine, But A Design That Truly Reflects Your Lifestyle? Check
Us Out – World Class Architecture Designed For You. This home has 9 foot ceilings, wood
floors, luxxury bath great yard – 13ksf Award Winning Architect and Builder Paramount Construction
Homes Starting at $425,000 on your lot – call 301-370-6463
s 9 foot ceilings, wood floor granite tops great design Several new homes under construction
– call 301-370-6463 for home tours go here for our homes for sale
Or if you already have a lot and you need an award winning architect to create a set of custom home
plans click here

Wheeeew…it’s over – – we had over 200 guests visit our Bethesda Open House yesterday!

I want to thank everyone for attending and I hope you liked what you saw.

First, I want to announce the winner of the Flip Mino Camera Drawing – the winner is…

…Mary H. (we’ll be contacting you today and sending out the
camera) – Congratulations!

Second, I apologize for not being able to meet with everyone individually and answer your

So I wanted to give you a quick FAQ below to answer some of the
most common questions and least technical (which I’ll answer in future emails – like,
does the $6500 tax credit apply to building a new home, can you really get tens of thousands
of dollars in tax credits with a tear-down and how do you obtain a “Green” LEED rated home?).

Here you go:

Q: Did we create the architectural design and perform the construction of the new home on Berkley Street?
A: Yes. We are architects and builders. Kevin is our on-staff, full-time architect.

Q: Is the home for sale or did we build it for an owner?
A: The home is not for sale, the home was built for the owner.

Q: Was the home design from our Paramount Portfolio Plan Book or was it custom designed?
A: When the owners were checking our references, they visited and met the owners of
our Belmont Model and fell in love with that home. However, given the owners unique needs
and wants and given the unique characteristics of the lot on Berkley, we created a custom design for
the owners.

Q: Do we charge a premium for creating a custom design vs building a home plan from our Paramount Portfolio
of over 80 New Home Plans?
A: Currently, we do not charge anything additional to create a custom home design.

Q: Was there an existing home on the property that was torn down?
A: Yes (we had many questions about the potential tax benefits of tens of thousands of dollars associated with the
tear-down, and a subsequent email will detail the benefits and how that works)

Q: What was the price of the Berkley home and what was included? What was not included?
A: Price was in the $600K +/- range and was all inclusive – demolition of existing home, excavation, permitting,
blueprints, engineering, surveying, utilities, custom selections, etc.

Q: Do you take on home additions and home renovations, as well as new homes?
A: Yes. Currently we have six projects of that type in process.

Q: Do you take on small remodeling projects – $50k to $200K?
A. No, but given the demand, we are considering accepting a few projects on a very limited basis.

Q: I want to build a new home but I don’t have land. Do you have land or lots? Can you help?
A: Yes, we have about 10 lots in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Mclean and N. Arlington.

I hope this helped.

I’ll be sending out another FAQ in the next few days on some of the more technical issues brought up
and we’re working on a video series that will answer many questions at an even deeper level, which will
come out in the next few weeks.

Again, Kevin and I really appreciate your interest in what we do and please feel free to email me at or Kevin at or call me at 301-370-6463
with any questions you have.

Paramount Constructions’ “Madison” Home is winner of Maryland National Capital Building
Industry Association Award. The category is
Best Traditional Home Award

The Madison House Plan by Paramount Construction Kitchen

The Madison House Plan by Paramount Construction Kitchen

Design Considerations

The owners’ intent was to build a new home for sale.

Our design goal was to create a marketable house plan
at a cost the owner could earn a profit.

We discovered that the lot was comprised of two
separate lots. The largest lot was large enough to
build a home on it. However, if we combined the lots
we could build a wider home with an elevation that
had more street presence.

After research and discussions with the county, we
concluded that the time and cost of combining the
lots was greater than the benefit, especially in a slow
market. So we designed a narrower home than we
could have designed had we opted to go through
the subdivision process.

The lot sloped front to back. The grade of the
lot made a walk-out basement plan a natural fit.

The lot is close to downtown Bethesda and the
homes throughout the neighborhood are Traditional
style homes. So we designed a Traditional style home
with cottage and shake accents on the exterior to
blend into the surrounding neighborhood.

We concluded from our market research and
understanding of our target buyer, that an
open floor plan
would be appealing.

Another major design consideration was
creating cost effective finished space to meet
the lenders’ appraisal requirements. Finishing
the basement and the third level achieved this.

Market research also drove us to place the
laundry room on the second floor.
This is a convenience the majority of the
target market prefers.

The best view of yard was the back of the
lot, so we placed the family room and kitchen
as well as the master suite on the back of the
home. All views from these rooms face out
to the rear yard. The results is a very bright
and open feeling.

Our goal was to make the home feel as spacious
and room
y as possible, especially considering
that it was a relatively narrow floor plan due
to the self imposed lot constraint. To achieve
this effect we widened hallways, we created a
open loft area at the second floor landing area
and we designed the dining room and living
room to be open to one another, with minimal
wall area.
Construction Details

We wanted a low maintenance exterior
so we specified Hardiplank siding and pvc
cornice. The siding was horizontal clapboard
siding with shake style Hardiplank accents at
the gables to add interest.

The finished third level was constructed
using room trusses. This saved money
compared to stick framing this area.

We gave the owner lots of free upgrades
because we wanted the home to show well
to our future prospects (and she is a nice lady).
One of the nice construction details we added
was the stone in the front of the exterior of
the home. We placed flagstone on the walkway
and laid a stone water table to accent the front
elevation. The wood floors were upgraded to
three inch oak from 2 ¼” oak.

Montgomery County required installation of
three drywells in the rear yard to contain water
runoff from the home. We used terne standing
seam metal roof on the front elevation to the
Traditional design character.
Specific Ways the house satisfied the client

The new home has a wonderful, bright, open floor plan.
It is a great plan for a family with a wonderful rear yard,
a walk-out basement with a ton of natural light,
generous room sizes and very close to all of the restaurants
and shopping downtown Bethesda has to offer.

The clients primary objective was to have house
that fit into the neighborhood and was a good value.
And a home that is marketable. The house was built
affordably and we incorporated design elements into
the home that didn’t cost a premium to build but
result in value. The is very pleased with the design
and the size of house we delivered.
Unusual problems encountered and overcome

Originally, the owner purchased the home thinking
she would remodel the 70 +/- year old structure
that was originally on the lot. We actually drew
a full set of plans for a major addition and had
obtained a building permit for the addition.

We quickly performed a “new home” zoning
analysis and created a new home plan that
worked within the setbacks on the one parcel
(so we could avoid the cost and time of a lot
combination thru Park and Planning). We then
pushed through permitting and obtained a
permit for a new home. All of this took only
a few months more time.

List of major manufacturers

WoodMode cabinets
Kohler Plumbing fixtures
Certainteed shingles
Kitchen Aid appliances
Carrier heating and cooling
Hinkley light fixtures

With so many details to think about, where do you start the
custom home process?  While it’s easy to get overwhelmed, we
like to simplify the custom home process by starting out
just looking at only two things.

What are these two things?
I can’t tell you because that would give away our
competitive advantage.

All right. You twisted my arm. Here they are:

Our process starts with two things:  1) you and 2) your lot.
That’s it. Pretty simple.

So I like to start things off playing Columbo.  When we meet
I’ll ask you questions that fall into just a four
categories. Here’s a small sample of our routine:

A.    $MONEY$ category

–    How important is resale to you?
–    Is return on investment your number one motivation
or is it a lower priority and you just want to
make sure you don’t do anything someone else would
think odd when you sell?
–    How are you going to finance your new home?
–    If you are going to use a lender, is a construction
loan, new first mortgage or new second mortgage best for
you? Can you use collateral of other assets to improve
your options?
–    How much cash do you have to put into your new home?

–    How much cash do you want to put in to the new home?

–    Have you spoken with a lender (we prefer you use ours I’ll

explain some advantages in future post)?
–    What tax bracket are you in? There could be some tax benefits

related to the project that may apply to your situation.

B.    Lifestyle category:

–    How long do you think you want to live in your new
home? This usually factors in to energy efficiency
and “green” options and calculating the pay-back period.
–    Are you there for 5 years and then on to the vineyards
of Oregon or is this your last home and you want us
to design a master suite on the first floor or an
elevator to get to the 2nd floor?
–    When do you want to see the home started by? This
can be a big factor when jurisdictions like Arlington,
D.C. and Montgomery County are constantly changing
zoning and building codes. Montgomery County just
passed a law that takes effect in four months
decreasing height and density in many neighborhoods
& sprinklers will be required in all dwellings in
two years (I’ll verify the exact date).
–    When do you want to move in to the home?  – “by Christmas”
is always a lofty goal and as long as you don’t
mind me asking “which one?” (I couldn’t resist)
we’ll always hit it.
–    Where will you live during the construction
(we have sources for short term rentals, but ask
me early since they go fast)?
–    Do you plan on in-laws or relatives coming back
for any period of time? What bathroom will they
use? What kitchen will they use? We just finished
a home in Silver Spring with three kitchens – one
for the kids with 5 kids of their own, one for the
parents and one for Aunt Lee, who visits during
the summers.

C.    Your Future Home (and little bit about your
current home) category

–    What are the features and amenities that you must
have, or the project just isn’t worth doing?
–    What are the features and amenities that would
be nice to have?
–    What style home do you love?
–    What style home do you hate?
–    What bothers you about your current home?
–    What do you love about your current home?
– How important are energy efficient features?
–    How important are green features?
–    Do you like open plans with a ton of natural
light and views from front to back or would you
prefer something more intimate and cozy?
–    What ceiling heights do you want? How do you feel
about two story spaces?
–    Do you want a basement? If so do you want it

D.    And Last but not least – Your Lot category – this
is always a biggie, so big I’m adding these extra
few sentences before I get to the.

It always surprises and shocks me, like a slurp
of Red Bull, when people don’t call us prior to
buying a lot (I bet you can tell, it especially
upsets me).

There could be so many restrictions on lots, for
instance: easements, setbacks, alleys, lot coverage,
height, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., which you
would never know just by looking at a piece of dirt
with your eyes.

We just completed two subdivisions, on two separate
projects, that probably added six (unexpected)
months to each project. And added thousands of
dollars in engineering and permitting fees.
In each case the owners were not aware of the
restrictions until we performed our zoning analysis.
And in each case they had owned the lots for many years.

So checking the “buildability” of your lot is one
of the very first steps we take.
IF YOU’RE PURCHASING A LOT, please call me before
you pull that trigger!

Here are some things we look at (this is so
critical I’m tossing out the regular bullets):

  • Zoning category
  • Public utility easements
  • Building restriction lines
  • Established front yard building line
  • Setbacks on all sides of the property
  • Floor area ratio
  • Year the lot was recorded
  • Is the lot a conforming or non-conforming
  • Specimen tree issues
  • Tree Save issues
  • Water Run-off
  • Wetlands

Due to the complexity of some of these issues,
complete research and answers may be a few steps
into our process. And to paraphrase a soon to be
ex-senator, this stuff is way beyond my pay grade,
so, Kevin, our excellent and unflappable architect,
handles most of this.

Well that’s a brief primer on how we start the custom
home process.  It all starts with you and your lot,
as it should be.

Next time I’ll give you an idea of what we do once
we get your answers. But it’s 12:08 a.m. and I need
to take out the garbage so I can earn my keep.

Please keep the comments and critiques coming
and let me know what’s on your mind. And I’d appreciate
if you could tell me:

  • What would you love to see during the home building process that would make your life easier?
  • What frustrates you the most about the home design and building process?