Elevation Design: The Basics of What/How and Why It’s Important

Posted: February 26, 2017 at 4:20 pm by: NewHomesGuide

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

While it is not a term widely used by homeowners, or outside of architecture and construction circles, the elevation is a unique consideration and tool employed in the design of any home. As a drawing, an elevation is a two-dimensional projection perpendicular to the vertical plane – meaning, it is a flat view seen while the “observer” is looking forward.

Most commonly, elevations portray the individual sides of a house. In this sense, they’re an interpretation of a three-dimensional view and are not actually experienced when looking at the house. 

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Like other architectural drawings, elevations are a set of instructions. They’re directions for how many, where to position, how to connect the pieces of a puzzle…or house! They’re a means of communicating a connection between inside and outside (where the windows are located and how tall the roof is), but also a glimpse into the design process. 

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

When an architect or designer is developing a concept for a house, they’ll likely begin by loosely drawing the plan to organize spaces and determine how big it will be. In doing so, they’re considering things like “What room should get the most light?” and “Where is the best view?” or “What rooms need to be concealed for privacy?”. These all work together to establish the house’s footprint, which significantly defines the mass, or shape and scale, of the house. 

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

As the house takes shape, details such as the openings and trim are refined. Using the flat plane of an elevation drawing, the architect or designer is able to work through and verify the relationship of pieces that shape the face of the house. A design’s success is measured largely on the balance of its composition – nothing should be added/removed or enlarged/reduced without spoiling it. It should come as no surprise that the adage, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is a mainstay among designers.   

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Elevation drawings are emblematic. Unlike floor plans, they’re less abstract and don’t require much translating to comprehend. A well-executed elevation should be both informative and evocative. As basic drawing conventions in the design industry, lines representing building materials (like brick, stone, and siding) are intended to have a tangible quality. Looking at these images, you can recognize characteristics like scale, texture, and reflectiveness as much as you can identify doors, windows, roofs, and columns – even with an “untrained” eye.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

This is what makes elevations special. In residential design specifically, people are often drawn to and compelled by familiarity and nostalgia. Your home should be a place of comfort and this can be derived, in part, by association – the bay window off your living room reminds you of days waving back to your family as you left the house. Or, the chimney peaking over your roof makes you think of winters spent in front of the fire. These sentimental qualities are powerful and are rooted in visual memories. When working with an architect or choosing a design from a builder, this type of recognition will resonate with you – it will ensure that you not only understand the home you’re building and that it meets your expectations, but it captivates you as well. 

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

Design Encyclopedia: Know Your Home’s Roof

Posted: January 30, 2017 at 11:54 am by: NewHomesGuide

The roof is one of the most fundamental elements of building. Beyond “keeping the rain out,” it also has a big impact on the appearance and style of your home. We’ve compiled this brief summary outlining the various conventional roof types found in residential construction. Use it as a guide to orient yourself in your next home purchase so that you can better understand how your home performs and achieve the right look for the style you desire.

Gable

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

The gable roof is iconic – beginning with the first illustrations we make of our homes as children, the simple triangular shape is one of the most universal images of “house” we can imagine. In essence, its functional merits also provide a clear visual for the design – a single ridge and sloped sides that shed water and snow, while providing attic space on the inside. The gable is simple and effective, which is one of the main reasons why it is so prolific in residential building. It is also one of the most versatile roof types, in that a slight change in pitch (steepness or slope) can give your home a completely different appearance, denoting a key trademark of a particular architectural style. Here are a few examples:

Photo Credit: Tom Fields Photography

Photo Credit: Tom Fields Photography

Craftsman style homes are often characterized by a wide, single gable with a very low slope. The wide roof overhangs can be traced back to the style’s origins in the western United States, where shading the coastal sun was a key design consideration.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

A steeper slope can give your home a more Contemporary flair. In this example, its simplicity makes a bold statement.

Hip

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Hipped roofs are sloped on all sides, terminating in either a pyramid-like point or a ridge that spans one direction across the house. Like gabled roofs, their simplicity is a key facet of the design – water sheds evenly to all edges of the roof, making it easy to distribute downspouts around your house and control water drainage on your lot. Because of their shape and assembly, hip roofs tend to be lower and, thus, limit available attic space. The hip shape also limits the amount of exterior finish material needed on your house – if you imagine the “triangle” shape of a typical gable roof being replaced with a hip, you can eliminate all of the siding or brick required to cover that wall surface.

Just as with gable roofs, a change in pitch and overhang can alter the character and style of your home. These variations below are classic takes on the hip roof:

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Prairie style homes exude low, horizontal lines. Their roots in the flat plains of the central United States are indicative of the solid, grounded feel these homes possess.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Georgian style homes lie on the opposite end of the spectrum with large, sweeping hip roofs. Their height gives the appearance of grandeur and anchors the symmetrical openings on either side of the central front door.

Mansard

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Another variation on the hipped roof is the mansard. Its popular origins are derived from French architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the government levied property taxes based on the number of stories a building had. The mansard roof was born as a response, tucking a habitable attic space under steep “roof” planes (which function more like walls) that cap the top of the building. Now, mansards are found most typically in urban neighborhoods in an evolved form with ornate details categorized under the Second Empire and Chateau styles. These roofs function just like a hip roof, but have two sloped portions with differing pitches on each side of the home.

Shed

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

The most straight-forward and distilled option in roofing vocabulary is the shed. Every component of the design is rooted in a particular function or consideration – from light and heat, to loads and structural assembly, to interior space and acoustics. Shed roofs are ideal for maximizing ceiling height, natural light throughout your home, and the efficiency of your heating/air conditioning system. They can offer the greatest amount of exposure where you want the sun to hit the house and reduce the heat that’s lost through surfaces on the cold, dark side. In terms of style, shed roofs make their appearance in more Contemporary applications, but were originally seen in the earliest, most humble forms of architecture.

Flat

Image Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography & W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

This classification is actually a bit of a misnomer, as roofs really can’t be “flat” and still effectively function as a means to distribute water off the top of your home. As we’ve explained, roofs rely on a positive slope to prevent the pooling of not only water, but also snow, ice, and leaves. The flat roof is a mainstay of Contemporary architecture, expressing the purest, most minimal way to terminate the walls of a building. In reality though, it is actually one of the most sophisticated roof types in residential construction – requiring multiple complex considerations of the way materials, edges, openings, and loads perform together. In the example above, a small wall around the entire perimeter of the home (parapet) conceals a network of subtle ridges that channel water to several deliberate openings (scuppers) that drain off the roof. The result is a hyper-clean look with only a few carefully curated materials and a shape that is equally bold.

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

Design Forecast: 4 Big Ideas for 2017

Posted: January 3, 2017 at 3:26 pm by: NewHomesGuide

A new year is upon us! As we leave 2016 behind and set our sights forward, we’ve compiled our list of the top residential design concepts that are ready to make an impact in the year ahead.

1. Clean & Modern

When it comes to home exteriors, this sentiment represents the preference of the overwhelming majority of prospective homebuyers. While one’s interpretation of “modern” seems to differ from person to person, this tends to suggest a couple key elements: clean lines and many (often large) openings. As general concepts, these are not exclusive to the contemporary style and can enhance the appearance and quality of any home.

image

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

As a prime example, Modern Farmhouse is a prolific style that is inherently both traditional and progressive. With roots derived from humble rural vernacular of the American South, these are simple houses with subtle detailing. The monochrome color palette, minimal trim, corrugated metal roof, dark windows, and mitered siding all give them a refined edge while preserving the qualities of their forebearers.
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Tricks of the Trade: Creating the Ideal Exterior Palette for Your Home

Posted: November 27, 2016 at 2:44 pm by: NewHomesGuide

As the dark and dreary days of winter begin to bear upon you, a feature on color is just the remedy you need. We’ve put together the following ideas and tips on everything you need to know when selecting the exterior materials and finishes for your home.

1. Site & Landscape

It’s important to consider factors that are beyond your immediate control – the land around your home typically falls into the category. When approaching or passing your home from the street, what effect do you want to convey? Is it more muted and nestled within the landscape (like the home below) or do you desire a stark contrast to the home’s surroundings? Color is a decisive factor for this consideration – adjusting the brightness and darkness of the hue will affect its visual impact among trees and other plantings.

photo

Photo Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

If you live in an area that experiences a dynamic range of seasons, you’ll find that this decision is one that should be made with a variety of conditions in mind. The creamy almond color of the parged brick on the home below is well-suited to “pop” against lush green grass, vibrant oranges and red leaves in fall, and a stark white, snow-covered yard during winter. (more…)

How to Measure and Understand Your Home’s Square Footage

Posted: October 27, 2016 at 11:19 am by: NewHomesGuide

Square footage is an elusive unit of measure. Because it factors in multiple dimensions, it can be inherently difficult to visualize or estimate. In the world of real estate comps, lender appraisals, and construction costs, this figure is a commanding factor in assessing the value of your home. Because it commands so much influence and the actual methods of accurately computing it can vary, there is a lot of merit in having an intuitive ability to comprehend it.

Without training or familiarity though, this can be a frustrating endeavor to take on as a homeowner. Have you had an experience buying or selling your home when you have faced important decisions armed only with what feels like an over-simplified number and no context for how it was determined? Let us help you by breaking down the “what” and “how” in calculating square footage.

Let’s do the math.

The math behind determining square footage is relatively simple. Does the formula A = L x W ring a bell? To compute a room’s square footage, multiply the measurements from two opposing walls – the length and width of the room. You can acquire a fairly accurate overall total for your home by just adding the areas of individual rooms together.

Unfortunately, this is where the calculation tends to get obscured. Real estate agents, zoning municipalities, and contractors all use slightly different methods to determine square footage. Among these trades, there is a generally accepted standard, but no completely consistent or universal point from which the measurements are taken. In most cases though, the exterior footprint is the most reliable and widely applicable figure to use. This is potentially deceiving, however, because it includes the thickness of the house’s walls, which are not readily visible or experienced when inside the house’s living spaces.

Make it real.

The easiest way to conceptualize this abstract unit is to compare the square footages of more familiar things you use and inhabit on a regular basis. Here are some good examples to put it in terms that are more readily understandable:

Photo Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

Photo Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

King-sized Bed: 42 square feet. Most master bedrooms vary between 200 and 400 square feet OR a rough equivalent of 5-10 king beds.

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Two-car Garage: One of the most consistent and regulated measurements in contemporary home building, 20’-0” x 20’-0” or 400 square feet is the standard protocol for this space.

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Drop-ceiling tiles: Browsing listings on New Homes Guide from the office? Odds are that your building has at least a few spaces with prolific white acoustical ceiling tiles. These almost always come in the same 2’-0” x 2’-0” dimension. Add up the number of tiles in each direction and multiply them together to determine the square footage of your conference room for an easy comparison.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Three-fixture bathroom: This is one of the most conventional and efficient bathroom layouts around. Modern standards of code clearances and product dimensions put this room at an approximate minimum of 5’-0” x 8’-0” or 40 square feet. Would you have guessed that your bathroom is roughly the same size as your bed? This just demonstrates how abstract the raw number can feel.

Not all spaces are created equal.

In determining the overall square footage total of your home, there are a few exceptions and distinctions worth noting:

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Finished vs. unfinished: Garages, Mechanical rooms, and Basements that are unconditioned (and/or generally unsuitable for year-round use) and not equipped with walls, floors, and ceilings similar to the rest of the house are excluded.

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Above-grade vs. below-grade: Basements that are buried both wholly and partially (i.e. a walk-out basement) below ground are usually listed separately.

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Double-height spaces: Foyers and Great Rooms with ceilings that extend multiple floor levels are only counted once.

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Floor area: Bay windows and chimneys, which do not have space on the floor for you to “occupy” do not count towards square footage.

Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

Stairs: Runs/treads and landings both count in square footage totals. They are measured as a part of the floor “from which they descend,” so are generally counted twice in a typical two-story home with a basement.

Do you have any tips or tricks you rely on to visualize square footage? Share them with us by leaving a comment below!

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

The 9 Coolest Home Automation Products

Posted: October 21, 2016 at 7:57 am by: NewHomesGuide

Home automation products make your life easier, but they’re also just plain cool. You can control so many things in your home without moving more than a finger. There are endless products to choose from, some of which you never would have thought you needed.

The WeMo Insight Switch is a great place to start. It turns anything you want into a home automation product. Plug the WeMo Insight Switch into any gadget or appliance and download the app to control it from your phone. You can even see how much energy your devices are using and how much it costs you to run them.

WeMo Insight Switch (Dave Taylor via Flickr)

WeMo Insight Switch (Dave Taylor via Flickr)

L.U.C.Y. is your personal assistant, and she’s also a robot. L.U.C.Y. recognizes the faces of your family members and can learn to anticipate everyone’s preferences. You can ask her questions, set reminders and write notes. You can also use L.U.C.Y. to control all of your other home automation products.

Lutron’s Serena Remote Controlled Shades may be a bit of a novelty, but there is no denying that they make your life easier. Not only can you control your window shades from your phone, but you can set timers and even use voice control. This is especially helpful for windows that are hard to reach.

These Philips Hue Smart LED Lightbulbs are just lightbulbs, but they also happen to have features that allow you to change the colors of the lights, toggle the brightness and set alarms and timers, all from your phone.

The Kohler DTV+ Digital Shower Interface allows you to design your perfect shower. The waterproof touch screen is mounted inside your shower so you can customize water pressure, temperature, lighting and even music for up to six different people.

Check out the August Smart Lock for a durable and reliable way to lock your door. You can lock it from your phone, but you can also lock it manually if you want.

August Smart Lock (Scott Lewis via Flickr)

August Smart Lock (Scott Lewis via Flickr)

The Koubachi K001 Indoor Wi-Fi Plant Sensor makes sure your plants are never neglected. This device monitors water, temperature and soil. It will alert you when your plant needs attention and tell you what the problem is. It can even graph the plant’s data, so you can check up on its needs.

Think you know your pet? The Petnet SmartFeeder might know your dog or cat better than you do. It lets you set a feeding schedule for your pet and manage the portion sizes, so you can feed Fluffy remotely from your phone. It also allows you to have more pet food delivered right to your door.

The Toasteroid App-Controlled Toaster is exactly what it says it is. Not only can you use your phone to make perfect toast, but the Toasteroid lets you create your own designs and print them directly onto each slice of bread.

Give some of these products a try to see how much easier your life can be with just a few gadgets and a smartphone.

Don’t Miss These Four Builder Incentives This Fall

Posted: October 7, 2016 at 9:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

Discovery Square Condominiums by K. Hovnanian Homes in Oak Hill, VA The Westchester by CalAtlantic Homes at Rosedale in Aldie, VA The Redwood by Brookfield Residential at Oakview Village in Glen Burnie, MD The Portman by Winchester Homes at Landsdale in Monrovia, MD
Discovery Square Condominiums by K. Hovnanian Homes in Oak Hill, VA

For many people, fall is the best time of the year. The leaves are changing, the weather is getting cooler and more comfortable, pumpkins are back in style again and fall-themed home decor seems to be everywhere.

What you might not know is that this is also one of the best times of the year to buy a new home. As homebuilders prepare for the winter ahead, many of them are offering some of the deepest discounts and incentives on beautiful new homes right now. Best of all, many of the homes that are eligible for these savings are ready now or will be soon, meaning you could be in your dream home before the end of the year.

Here’s a look at the great incentives a few of the area’s premier homebuilders are offering right now (Terms and conditions may apply. Please contact a homebuilder representative for more information.):

Brookfield Residential — Pay $0 Down until November 15

Brookfield Residential is making it easy for you to get in your dream home by telling you to skip the down payment when you purchase your Move-In-Now home by November 15. That’s right, a $0 down payment gets you in a gorgeous new single family home or townhome at one of Brookfield’s fantastic communities across Maryland and Northern Virginia.

To learn more about this $0 down payment offer and the available Move-In-Now homes, visit the official Brookfield Residential website or speak with a sales manager today. Be sure to visit the builder profile on our website to learn more about this national homebuilder.

CalAtlantic Homes — $10,000 in Closing Costs until October 31

When you fall in love with your CalAtlantic dream home this fall, you’ll receive a special housewarming gift of up to $10,000 in closing cost credit when you use CalAtlantic Mortgage℠ for financing and CalAtlantic Title℠ as your closing agent/title insurer. This incredible offer applies to both Quick Move-in Homes and to-be-built homes purchased by October 31 in the DC metro area.

Ready to start your search? Learn more about this builder on our website or find your home on the CalAtlantic website today.

K. Hovnanian Homes® — ½ Off Options until October 31

Start thinking about options and upgrades because K. Hovnanian®  Homes invites you to “Imagine the Possibilities” with half off options (up to $50,000) for your new to-be-built home when you purchase by October 31. It’s never been more affordable to create something that has all of your must-have features.

Get all the details for this offer here and learn more about K. Hovnanian® Homes on our website now.

Winchester Homes — Save Thousands on Move-In-Ready Homes until November 15

“Home at First Sight” happens when you see that all your favorite upgrades and options are already built into the single family home or townhome that caught your eye. Winchester Homes is inviting you to fall in love, move in fast and save big when you experience “Home at First Sight” with a Move-In-Ready Home by November 15.

Visit the Winchester Homes website to find a home you’ll absolutely love or learn more about the homebuilder on our website now.

 

Business Casual: Working Comfortably and Productively from Home

Posted: September 23, 2016 at 9:11 am by: NewHomesGuide

The distinction between home and work is a line that is being blurred evermore. Technology has enabled us to “plug in” virtually anywhere. This has yielded far more flexibility in how and where we conduct business, giving rise to the recent popularity of home offices. The convenience and benefits are undeniable, with the saved cost and effort of commuting ranking at the top of the list.

There can certainly be some cons to this arrangement, though. Without the constraints of a typical office environment, like the surveillance of your boss or co-workers, your productivity is attributable to you and only you. In addition to the lack of oversight, the necessities of everyday life at home can become distractions: the full dishwasher that needs emptying, the dog who’s begging for play time, and the peculiar dust collecting below your less-used furniture can all become detrimental to your workflow.

This means it’s important to establish a space that’s functional and efficient, facilitating your ability to focus in a way that’s actually enjoyable. If the space you retreat to when it’s time to churn out your work is inviting and comfortable, you’ll be all the more inclined to spend time there, especially when you have to! Here are some considerations for designing a workstation, home office, or study nook that works for you:

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Kitchen Islands: Done 7 Ways

Posted: August 19, 2016 at 3:17 pm by: NewHomesGuide

Kitchens have become the heart of modern-day homes. The days of mysterious cooking enclaves hidden from view are long gone. In their place, an era of open, dynamic social hubs is being ushered in. Now, the kitchen is evolving into a communal center — the primary destination for gathering and entertaining. No other single component is more impactful to the function of this space than the kitchen island. Its purpose and role within your overall kitchen design should cater to both those doing the cooking as well as the array of guests that it will host simultaneously. We’ve profiled a collection of islands suitable for nearly any kitchen and sensibility — which one could you envision in your new home?

1. The Center Sink

Kitchen photo

Photo Credit: Pavot Photography Studios

In the typical collection of kitchen fixtures, the sink is the most frequently employed. It fills, soaks, rinses and drains at all phases of preparation, serving and cleanup. Therefore, of the places you’ll be stationary in the kitchen, this is where you’ll linger the longest. By orienting it front and center, and facing an adjacent space, you’ll be able to stay engaged while being productive.

2. The Table Extension

Kitchen photo

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

This island is for homeowners seeking an informal dining space that is integral to the kitchen but separate from the flurry of activity associated with meal preparation. As opposed to the more conventional bar arrangement, this configuration allows you and your guests to face one another while eating together. The lower height of the extension is more suitable to standard-sized dining chairs and provides a subtle distinction from the prep surface.
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Back-to-School Stress? Your New Home Can Help.

Posted: August 5, 2016 at 10:35 am by: NewHomesGuide

The new school year is almost upon us, and that means it’s almost time to return to the routine of getting the kids up and out the door, then back home in time for homework, dinner and bedtime. Anyone who’s a parent knows that it’s not always easy.

What if your home could help keep your family’s life more organized, efficient and simple?

Many homebuilders are designing their homes to help make that happen. Here are a few design elements to look for in your new home to make getting back to school a breeze.

Study Centers

You want to ensure the kids are getting their homework done every night, right? But dinner has to get done, too. Study centers — spacious desk areas located in or just off the kitchen — are the perfect solution, letting you cook and keep an eye on the kids. They’re also an ideal spot to organize your mail or bills when you come home each day.

Mudrooms and Drop Zones

With all the backpacks, sports bags, gym bags, purses and briefcases that fill your home, wouldn’t it be helpful to have a system to keep track of it all?

Fortunately, many new homes feature expanded mudrooms or drop zones. You can hang backpacks and bags on hooks or stored in cubbies to keep them out of the way when everyone is home, helping you keep everything organized and getting you in and out the door faster.

Charging Stations

Raise your hand if it feels like your home is overrun by cords and cables.

In today’s world, getting through your day without using your phone, tablet or laptop is pretty much out of the question. That’s why charging stations are a popular addition to many new homes. Helping you keep your home organized, these rooms include plenty of outlets and enough room to charge your devices when you’re not using them.

Looking to find a new home in time for the new school year? See all of the Move-In-Now communities in the area from some of the top builders in the region in the latest issue of New Homes Guide or by searching our website today.

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DR Horton — The Brandywine

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DR Horton — The Easton

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K. Hovnanian — The Addison

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K. Hovnanian — The Tara

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Pulte Homes — Pulte Planning Center — The Kingswood

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Pulte Homes — Pulte Planning Center — The Sherwood

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Van Metre Homes — The Barrington

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Van Metre Homes — The Townsend Collection

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Winchester Homes — The Milburn

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Winchester Homes — The Langley II

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