Northern Virginia-based Classic Cottages provides turnkey solutions for Arlington families looking to build or buy a new home. Whether it’s a carefully crafted model home or a custom home from scratch, Classic Cottages can handle everything from concept to completion.
Classic Cottages president and founder David Tracy has a mantra: “We will be on time and on budget.” He takes particular pride in the fact that Classic Cottages has been able to honor fixed pricing in contracts even as material pricing surged starting in early-to-mid 2021, and they have met timelines when hitting completion dates has become increasingly challenging.
For the buy, build, sell model home part of their business, Classic Cottages has adjusted by shortening the time available to prospective buyers for customization and implementing a hard stop in pre-construction. “We are already having to adjust to ever-changing product delivery timelines, product unavailability and labor shortages inside of our construction schedules,” says VP of operations Evan Muelenaer. “This additional complexity ends up filling the time previously devoted to entertaining and executing elective changes on behalf of our buyers during construction.”
Newer headwinds facing the industry are related to the unreliability of attaining permanent utilities and front-end permitting delays. Muelenaer explains that prior to middle of 2021, “maybe 5% to 10% of Classic Cottages’ jobs” had some level of disruption to the build schedule due to an inability to obtain permanent utilities.
For projects under construction or completed earlier this year, “every house is either coming down to the wire” with utilities installed just in time or “causing some level of delay near the finish line,” Muelenaer says. Classic Cottages finds it increasingly important to provide accurate guidance to buyers earlier so they can plan movers, settlement and other measures typically associated with buying or moving into a new home.
On a related issue, Arlington County rolled out new stormwater regulations in September 2021, with the goal of better managing runoff onto neighboring properties. “I think anybody who is responsibly building in the county believes the new regulations were well-intended,” says Tracy. “However, applying the intent in the short term has been challenging to accomplish.”
This has resulted in unpredictable timelines and short-term delays in the permitting durations. For years, Classic Cottages was able to receive permits to start construction approximately three to three-and-a-half months after the initial submission of the Land Disturbance Permit. Over the last two quarters, Classic Cottages has seen durations widen significantly to six months or longer.
“Everybody involved in the process—particularly county reviewers and civil engineers—is working harder, trying to interpret the new code and regulations in real time,” says Tracy. “However, it’s affecting our clients in the short term and adding to already lengthy build schedules.”
Through it all, Classic Cottages remains confident in the strength of the local single-family housing market and an eventual easing of current project lifecycle disruptions. “They aren’t making any new land here in Arlington,” notes Tracy. “We will continue to deliver high-quality homes to Arlington’s residents.”