Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
Quality and Versatility Made Simple
With the coastal counties of California approaching build out, there's been increased growth in the Inland Empire. Located east of Los Angeles and known for its dairy farms, orange groves and vineyards, the Inland Empire has become the place to go for a large, move-up home. Lake Elsinore-based Castle & Cooke took a different approach.
With the coastal counties of California approaching build out, there's been increased growth in the Inland Empire. Located east of Los Angeles and known for its dairy farms, orange groves and vineyards, the Inland Empire has become the place to go for a large, move-up home. Lake Elsinore-based Castle & Cooke took a different approach. The company focused on providing quality and more sophistication with its latest master-planned community, Alberhill Ranch in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
"The market in general took advantage of buyers moving to the Inland Empire," Ken Benson, vice president and general manager of Castle & Cooke's Alberhill Ranch says. "In many cases, [buyers] were looking for square footage and room count, but we now think there's a demand for homes that are more quality designed and built better. We're focusing on that move-up opportunity."
The goal is to provide lasting value with a sense of belonging. Castle & Cooke worked with the architecture staff at Sherwood Development, Thousand Oaks, Calif., a division of Castle & Cooke, to design the floor plans. An outside architecture firm was used as well. Knitter & Associates, Inc., Newport Beach, Calif., was hired to draft the plans. With their combined efforts, the two architecture teams created the image Castle & Cooke wanted.
Castle & Cooke's desire to establish a residential community rich with amenities, landscaping and quality housing began in 1992. But the housing decline of the early 1990s brought development to a halt. In January 2004, due to the undersupply of new housing throughout the region Castle & Cooke began development.
Alberhill Ranch currently hosts two major neighborhoods — Saltillo and Capella. Saltillo opened in May 2005 and Capella opened in August 2005. "This community [Saltillo] is focused on nurturing a sense of belonging and family-oriented homebuyers realize and appreciate these values," Michael Williams, vice president of sales and marketing for Castle & Cooke says.
"In fact, the immediate success and ongoing demand for Saltillo prompted the early release of its second phase, which showcases picturesque locations overlooking rolling hillsides," Williams says.
By offering valuable housing to buyers with its newest product line, Castle & Cooke positions the buyer for the move-up stage. Castle & Cooke achieves this by offering the classic house with strong standard features, including European-style white thermofoil cabinetry, tile flooring at the entry and kitchens, pre-cast fireplace faces, built-in appliances and separate tub and showers in the master bathrooms.
Potential and versatility sells. Plan four, the last of four plans offered, is the best-selling floor plan at Saltillo. It starts as a basic plan but offers considerable versatility, depending on family lifestyle and needs. This 3,120 sq. ft. plan has five bedrooms with a master bedroom that provides owners plenty of luxury and space, including a walk-in closet nearly the size of the master bedroom itself. Bedroom four includes an adjoining bathroom, which positions it well for teenagers as well as and college kids still living at home. Bedroom five can fit the needs of elderly parents or guests. It also can be converted into a den or office. Versatility.
Plan four also was designed to "appeal to families who entertain both formally and informally," Benson says. The separate living and dining rooms provide formal entertaining opportunities while the kitchen, nook and family room offer a great informal ambiance. "We were trying to give some formal feel with the dining room, a family feel in the family room, and more kitchen area to work with," Greg Nutt, director of information services for Knitter & Associates, Inc. says.
The garage often dominates the elevation of houses with three-car garages. With classic-style homes, the domination is even more oppressive. With plan four, Castle & Cooke resolved the problem by offering a two-car garage on one side of the main entrance and a one-car garage on the other side. "Being able to have that split gives us the ability to get the front entry more in the center of the house, which goes back to the classic style," Rob Flay, architectural manager at Sherwood Development, a division of Castle & Cooke says. "It's great because it created a courtyard in the front entry."
For a typical two-car garage, an entry into the house is offered, which is true for plan four. With a typical one-car garage, the exit leads directly outside. Castle & Cooke addressed that issue by exiting the one-car garage onto a covered porch, which is attached to the front of the house. "I've seen a lot of plans where they do one-car garages and you can't exit easily, you have to come outside," Flay says. "In this particular plan, we were able to create a covered porch off the front entry that makes access really easy."
Price increases tend to occur each time a house sells, but Castle & Cooke doesn't believe in that. Offering value and quality comes first. Pricing for Saltillo has stayed between $500,000 and $550,000. "Our concept is to build upon the value," Benson says. "First, we had to convince buyers there is value and that we build quality [homes]."
Another reason for offering steady pricing is it allows Castle & Cooke to position itself for the next several years. "For Alberhill Ranch, we intend to build all the product," Benson says. "We're looking at this consistently as opposed to building a 100 homes and being done with it. We don't need to overcharge in the first phase to where it's a marathon [to build out Alberhill Ranch]."
Steady pricing hasn't hurt. They have released 83 homes in the Saltillo neighborhood and only nine remain unsold. Only one of those is a plan four home.