Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors Real Estate Insider Column

Real Estate Insider loves living in an older home. But recently, after shooing away the countless flies let into the house through the charming screenless, wooden-framed windows and trying to avoid overloading the lone electrical outlet available in each bedroom, we’ve begun to dream about new homes.

Dreaming about new, unscarred bamboo floors, energy-efficient appliances and a house wired for our plugged-in lifestyles. Evidently, we’re not the only ones who are dreaming. Along with the rest of the residential real estate market, the demand for new construction is picking up. However, builders are struggling to find suitable land to meet the growing demand.

According to the Regional Multiple Listing Service, only 6.5 percent of the market consists of new construction, with more proposed or currently under construction.

“We’re definitely seeing new construction activity picking up and improved reports of new home sales,” said Dave Nielsen, chief executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Metro Portland. “This improvement is spreading to more markets around the region and wider home price ranges, which is another good sign.”

Homebuyers looking into buying a newly constructed home are sure to notice a trend toward sustainability. Often, new homes come with certifications, such as Earth Advantage silver, gold or platinum, LEED, or tout scores rating their sustainability, such as EPS. Beyond the certifications, some homebuyers are taking the concept of sustainability farther, according to Realtor Mark Wheeler with Roots Realty.

“Folks are embracing smaller housing built sustainably,” Wheeler said. “Smaller buildings help keep costs down, both during and after construction. The ongoing heating and maintenance bills are typically lower, too, especially if the house is built using sustainable principles.”

In line with the trend toward smaller homes, Wheeler noted that building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is also becoming more popular, particularly in the Portland area, where the ADU permit fee — sometimes up to $10,000 — is currently waived.

“An ADU can be the solution for homeowners who are looking for ways to live with extended family but also have separate kitchens and bathrooms, while sharing yards and common spaces,” Wheeler said. “This is also a great way to gain a little extra rental income to help defray the costs of owning a home.”

One final piece of advice to homebuyers considering purchasing a newly constructed home: A home inspection is still a great investment.

“Just because the city or county inspector signed off doesn’t mean everything is in perfect working condition,” cautioned Realtor Deana Doney with RE/MAX Equity Group. “I recently attended an inspection that revealed the downstairs bath toilet had not been attached to the drain pipe. If not found prior to closing, all contents from that toilet would have been deposited in the crawlspace — not a good thing.”

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