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Adding On Makes Big Houses

When Carlos Caballero bought his two-bedroom house in 1988 in Springfield, he had visions of a bigger place so he added on through the years and now has a house that is five times the size of the original.

Using the same foundation, which was built in 1948, he now has a 5,400 square foot house with six bedrooms, six baths, a six car garage, an office, a game room, tennis courts and pool. The only thing that vaguely resembles the original house is the front room or the television room downstairs with a lower ceiling than the rest. Caballero stood in that room and looked at his achievement.

"This used to be a crawl space. We've got a big family and we like space. The location is convenient," he said.

With real estate values still going up, homeowners are thinking about additions that sometimes change the whole house. Some look at it as working with what they've got while others think it takes away from the neighborhood charm.

Diana Greenberg lives in the Olde Creek neighborhood in Fairfax. One house on her court added additional rooms to the back, doubling the size of the house, which was built in 1965.

"It didn't really impact anybody because it's in the back," she said.

Her neighbor April Nakaima looked at several houses around the Olde Creek that did similar construction on their houses.

"For the most part, they like seeing it because it improves the property," she said, pointing to a house that enclosed a carport and put a room above the carport as well. "At first that looks really big to me but now I don't even notice it," Nakaima said, although she's heard other neighbors complain about it.

IN FAIRFAX COUNTY, the size of a house must fit within their guidelines, according to Daryl Varney, with the county's zoning and permit review branch. For a piece of property zoned R-1, it must be 40 feet from the property line in the front, 20 feet on the sides and limited to 35 feet in height. A building permit is required and the county inspection.

"There's no maximum square footage. We would review it and make sure it meets the setback requirement and height restriction," Varney said.

Clyde Bastiem, with the county zoning department, reiterated the county guidelines.

"If they are expanding the footprint of the building, they will have to get a permit," he said.

Caballero hired contractors who took care of all the permits.

"That's what the contractor was supposed to do, I didn't deal with the county," he said.

Fairfax Station resident Frank Smerbeck owns Kustom Kastles that does work enlarging houses. Like Caballero, he finds a lot of people like where they live but just want a bigger house so it's worth it to sink money into it instead of moving.

"People like where they live, like their neighbors and lead good lives," he said.

BUT IN A 1950S-ERA neighborhood where additions were commonplace, doubling the size of the house might change the character. This was the case with a neighbor of Herndon Town Council member John DeNoyer who lives in a neighborhood without an HOA. For over 17 years, the house across the street was a rental and got run down. The owners decided to tear it down and build another on the same spot, but much larger.

"It's a nice house but it doesn't fit in the neighborhood. That's one of the troubles, we didn't have an homeowners association. It blocks our view," DeNoyer said.

A house with twice the square footage is more expensive than the surrounding houses, raising everyone's taxes, according to Ann Csonka, who lives near the house.

"It costs us all," she said.

Last year, a house in Springfield put on an addition, nearly tripling the size of the original house but the owner did not follow the approved plans and failed inspections. In the end, the county tore the whole addition down and billed the homeowner for the work.