Although recovery for home building has been looking up for a while—with new-home starts in 2013 up 18 percent over 2012 and new-home sales in January at their highest level since July 2008—coming
Florida-based Petz Custom Homes’ high-design paired villas aren’t just more duplexes
|The 1,637-square-foot Brighton and 1,828-square-foot Ashton are a perfect fit - the Brighton’s courtyard is on the side, and the Ashton’s is along the back. Together the homes look like a large single-family home.|
Don’t call the homes at Timberly in Parrish, Fla., duplexes. Builder Todd Petzoldt doesn’t. The 68 homes in his community halfway between Sarasota and St. Petersburg are "paired villas."
Petzoldt isn’t being pretentious. The $164,000 homes he builds hardly resemble typical twins - which he describes as a box split down the middle with a door on each side. And even at 1,469 to 1,828 square feet, they still live more like the villas that Petzoldt’s company, Petz Custom Homes, is accustomed to building.
The difference is in the design, Petzoldt says. He hired The Evans Group of Orlando, Fla., to help him pinpoint the ideal new product for his 50-acre, mixed-use development. Traditionally a snowbird community dominated by manufactured housing, Parrish has been on the cusp of solid growth for the past few years, Petzoldt says, ushered in by a successful outlet mall and sustained by the community’s easy access via Interstate 75 to jobs in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa. The goal was to create a high-design, attainable product that would stand out from the rest of the new homes and existing stock in the area.
"This was a new adventure [for Petzoldt]," architect Don Evans says. "Duplexes are a huge product in that market, but we took off to do something a little bit different."
Two Houses in One
At first glance, the paired villas at Timberly are practically indistinguishable from the single-family villas Petzoldt builds down the street. In the pairing of the Brighton and Ashton models, for instance, Evans made the two homes look like one big house by facing one of the two-car garage doors to the street and the other to the side. With a gabled roof, windows and landscaping on the front elevation of the side-facing garage, it looks like part of the living space. To complete the illusion, the front entrances of both homes are set way back from the main elevation, reducing the prominence of two separate entrances.
Four plans are available at Timberly, and each is designed to be interchangeable, Evans says. Individual buyers - who so far are divided between empty nesters or retirees and first-time buyers - can choose the plan that suits their needs without concerning themselves with their neighbor’s plan.
The most popular floor plan, accounting for almost a third of the 33 sales since February 2000, is the 1,637-square-foot Brighton model, which is base-priced at $164,000 and sold as modeled (with pool) for $240,000.
|Special touches such as the fireplace and entertainment center treatment, ceiling and drywall details, and trimwork impress buyers not expecting such thoughtful attention in a home at the Brighton’s $164,000 price point.|
Doubtless its popularity comes from the innovative design, which manages to get in all the basics - two bedrooms, two baths, two-car garage, kitchen, dining nook and grand room - plus a private courtyard and detached guest suite. Both are features not usually seen on attainable products, and Evans says Petzoldt is the only builder in the area offering an attached product with a courtyard.
The courtyard is that special something that goes a long way in changing what Evans calls the "duplex psychology." For the builder, incorporating a courtyard or other outdoor room adds little to the cost of the home but does take careful planning up front. What makes it worthwhile for Petzoldt is that his buyers don’t expect that kind of detail and thoughtfulness on an attached, affordable product.
Aside from the pleasant surprise it gives buyers, the courtyard is also practical - it gives homeowners a lot of privacy despite the small, 452125-foot lots. On the Brighton model, the courtyard is in the angle of the L-shaped home. A door between the garage and guest cabana leads into the screened-in courtyard to reach the home’s main entrance, creating a cozy retreat and cutting off views of the insular courtyard from the street. The shape of the house allows access to the courtyard from the master suite, grand room, dining nook and second bedroom, and also provides those areas of the home with abundant light.
The detached guest suite, Evans says, is especially suited to Timberly’s many empty-nest or retiree buyers, who might have boomerang kids or entertain guests from back home in the Midwest or on the East Coast.
"That little guesthouse has neat convertibility," Evans says. "If [a homeowner] still works, it can be an office." Or, Petzoldt adds, it can be converted into a hobby room or self-contained art studio, as one of his recent buyers chose.
The guesthouse, however, isn’t exactly cheap to build - Petzoldt says it costs about $14,000. The Brighton plan, in fact, sells for the same price as the Ashton plan, which gives buyers nearly 200 more square feet. "That [Brighton] floor plan," Petzoldt says, "is a bear to build. There’s not a straight wall in the house."
The Look and Feel of Luxury
|A glass shower, angled garden tub, dual sinks and raised vanities go a long way in making this master bath look luxurious.|
Petzoldt has a distinct advantage over other builders of similar product in his area because of land costs - he has owned the Timberly property for years - but says his margins are no higher than others’. Still, with homes starting at $164,000 - when the median detached home price in Parrish is $170,990, according to The Meyers Group - Petzoldt thinks he offers buyers a lot of value for their money. (The median price for an attached home is $159,000 in Parrish and $194,866 in metropolitan Sarasota.)
Despite the more affordable price tag, the homes at Timberly have many of the features Petzoldt puts in his $700,000 homes. Although it costs him a little more, he puts mitered glass in the café, a separate tub and shower in the master bath, and a rounded, glass block shower wall in the guesthouse to make the homes feel more like luxury villas than affordable, detached homes.
|An exterior door linking the garage and guesthouse opens into the courtyard, which is accessible from every room in the house and the guesthouse. Most buyers upgrade the space with a pool and screened-in enclosure - to let sun in but keep bugs out.|
He makes up for the cost by providing design details that look more expensive than they are. Art niches and recesses are simple drywall details, and dramatic ceiling details that look like wood are achieved with foam painted with glossy paint, Evans says. Other simple details, such as lifting the bathroom vanities off the floor and rounding the drywall corners, are effects that buyers see in high-end homes and are surprised by in an affordable product.
What makes some of this affordable for Petzoldt is that he uses the same crews - paying them weekly and on time - that he uses in all his other homes. Mostly, Evans says, Petzoldt takes the time to shop products in all price points and picks details to "steal," crunching the numbers diligently to see what will work within his budget.
"The best way to sell houses," Evans says, "[is to make] the public think they’re stealing from you. If people walk in your models and think that you’ve got value beyond [what they usually see], the tendency is to say, ‘We better buy this before this guy wakes up.’"