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Neighborhood Expert: Top 5 things I would do if I were building a house

Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA and D.C. with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or

As everyone knows, there’s a ton of new construction around Vienna and the Tysons Corner area. I’ve toured many new builds and having gone through many home building and renovation projects, here’s what I would do if I were building a house right now:

  1. Make sure you put recessed lighting in each bedroom in addition to a central light/ceiling fan.
  2. Add a screened in porch in addition to a deck/patio area. Screened in porches become a Covid “must have” for home buyers and will be a great addition when you resell the home.
  3. Smart TVs are taking over traditional cable plans, but think through if you plan to keep your cable box. If so, where are you going to house it? I’m seeing a lot of family rooms with no real place to put them, I think assuming folks will just have a smart TV. So if you want to hide all of the components, add a cabinet or you’ll need to buy a table to put the box on (or have it wired to a nearby closet).
  4. Think through storage – gyms/theaters/2nd office spaces have taken over traditional basements, but think through how much storage you really need. I happen to be one of those people who throws away or gets rid of everything, but if you’re not, where are you going to keep your holiday decorations/bins of clothes/camping equipment/etc.? One underrated way to add storage space is to have the ground below the garage excavated. Reclaim that unused space!
  5. Expect trends to change – make choices you’re going to love rather than worry about resale (except the screened in porch – keep that). Decorative walls with designs, thick island counters and thinner perimeter counters, mixed metal in bathrooms, carpet versus wood flooring, etc. Pick what you want. It’s hard to predict trends and who knows how long you’ll actually be in the house.
  6. Bonus tip: get a concrete driveway versus asphalt. There’s less maintenance on a concrete driveway and I am all about not adding 1 more thing to remember to do.

If you’re thinking of building and have questions, feel free to reach out. Whether they’re financing or actual building questions, I’m happy to put my 15 years of experience to use for your benefit.

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