Single-family homes positioned for success

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Single-family detached homes are a perennial buyer favorite, but with the housing market still in recovery, builders have to make sure the location, design, and pricing are absolutely right.

June 24, 2013

Single-family detached homes are a perennial buyer favorite, but with the housing market still in recovery, builders have to make sure the location, design, and pricing are absolutely right. Of the four successful examples profiled in this article, three are in master-planned communities and one is an infill project strategically located inside the Washington, D.C., Capital Beltway.



 

Selling the detached lifestyle





Condominium sales were going well for Brookfield Homes at Windingwalk in Chula Vista, Calif., until market conditions caused buyers to lose their appetite for attached housing. From 2007 to 2012, Brookfield sold 108 of 180 homes planned for its Cordova neighborhood. Then it was time for a change.

“[The attached] product had been around and was a little bit stale,” says Rocky Tracy, vice president of sales for Brookfield’s Southern California region. The builder worked with Starck Architecture + Planning, San Diego, to design new, two-story detached homes. 






“It’s still a condominium, but it lives like a single-family detached home with a private yard,” Tracy says. “It’s like a zero-lot-line situation where the wall of one home is actually the fence of your side yard.” The yard space is something the Cordova condominiums didn’t offer, adds architect Jamie Starck: “They had either a small patio or no outdoor space at all.”

The new product line, called Haven, opened for sales last November. Brookfield plans to build a total of 60 homes. Of the 45 released to date, 44 are sold and one is reserved. There are four plans, ranging from 1,718 to 2,430 square feet. Judging by the positive feedback at the November opening, “We hit it out of the park. Customers were calling their friends on the phone and saying, ‘You’ve got to come and see this,’” Tracy says.




Large windows in the living room bring light into the home from the courtyard.



The red-hot sales pace is reflected in two price increases since the November opening. At press time, base prices ranged from $369,370 and topped out at $417,960—an increase of 5 percent since November. By mid-May, Tracy says, prices will have increased another 4 percent. “We’ve also been able to reduce our incentives,” he says. 

All of the homes have a great room on the first floor and a supersized family loft on the second floor. An optional first-floor den/bedroom is offered in some plans. “The idea was to get the living space to orient directly out to the yard, which is on the side of the house,” Starck says. 



The supersized family loft on the second floor can be can be used as a playroom, media room, study or extra bedroom. Comparable detached homes on the market don’t offer this feature, says Brookfield’s Rocky Tracy.



To further differentiate Haven from competing products, Brookfield focused on storage, making the closets as large as possible and included walk-in closets in some of the secondary bedrooms. Space under the stairs was turned into a closet or pantry. The two-car garages have room for a workbench and overhead storage.

The location has also been a big draw for home buyers, he says: “Windingwalk has a great community center with swimming pools, meeting rooms, recreation facilities, and planned events. And because it’s a relatively new master plan, new schools are being built in the area. There are public parks and lots of great places to shop.”



Haven has attracted a significant number of Mexican nationals desiring a second home in the United States (Chula Vista is about five miles from Tijuana). A large percentage of buyers are in the military.









The Haven floor plan by Brookfield Homes at Windingwalk in Chula Vista, Calif., features a great room on the first floor and a supersized family loft on the second.









This scheme offers large storage space, even walk-in closets for some secondary bedrooms. “The idea was to get the living space to orient directly out to the yard, which is on the side of the house,” says architect Jamie Starck.



CLICK NEXT FOR GRAND PALM



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Mixing the generations



The cottages (left) face one of the parks in the center of the community, which includes a clubhouse with two swimming pools, two dog parks, basketball, tennis, bocce and volleyball courts, a children’s splash park and playground, and a large, open field.



Pat Neal was thinking about building a new golf-course community on 2,000 acres he owned in Venice, Fla. It made sense at the time, given that retirees and empty nesters have traditionally been the biggest buyers of new homes in Venice. Then Neal Communities took a closer look at how demographics were shifting in the south Sarasota County town, and decided to make it a multi-age community.

The Darling of architecture lovers
 
Darling Homes is all about symmetry and classic architecture. Knowing there is a segment of buyers who long for the nostalgic charm and character of older homes, the Dallas-based builder introduced its American Classic Series. 
 
“It’s a niche product, there’s no doubt about it,” says Mike Carter, vice president of marketing for Dallas-based Darling Homes. “But it’s a niche that really resonates well.”
 
The American Classic Series includes eight floor plans, each available in three elevations. They range from 2,100 to 3,500 square feet, with prices starting in the $300,000s. Designed by Darling’s in-house architects, the homes have such details as wide front porches, painted front doors, square post columns, and louvered shutters. Transoms, wainscoting, beadboard, built-in bookshelves, and crown molding add character to the interiors. The series is aimed squarely at art and architecture buffs drawn to the type of home featured in Architectural Digest or Southern Living magazines. 
 
“We have people buying [them] that have very high net incomes, even though it’s not specific to a certain income or demographic,” says Carter. “It’s specific to people that love architecture, front-porch living, and that classic look.” 
 
Darling is offering the American Classic Series at multiple locations in Dallas and Houston—typically master-planned communities where buyers can take advantage of top-notch recreational amenities and services. Carter acknowledges that the rollout has been successful, but due to the acquisition of Darling Homes by Taylor Morrison in January, he couldn’t provide any specifics on sales. 
 
Suffice it to say that a select group of home buyers has embraced the American Classics because they offer the best of both worlds: timeless architecture executed with flair and sensitivity, and the efficiency and comfort of a new home.


When completed, Grand Palm will comprise approximately 2,000 homes, making it Neal’s largest community to date. More than 80 have been sold so far. Five different product lines are offered, ranging from 1,000 to 2,500 square feet and including attached villas and single-family homes on lots that are 45 to 57 feet wide. Prices range from the mid-$100,000s to the high $300,000s. 
 
Home sales started last September with the introduction of six models. Four additional models opened in late November. A separate grand opening for the community amenities was held in April and attended by approximately 700 people, “a mix of families and empty nesters,” says Leisa Weintraub, Neal’s vice president of marketing and creative director. Some buyers are local, but a healthy percentage are relocating from up north or purchasing second homes.
 
The offerings include alley-loaded cottages that Neal has sold successfully in the Sarasota/Manatee/Bradenton area, says Bob Boyd, a partner in BSB Design’s Oldsmar, Fla., office. “They [face] one of the parks in the center of the community,” says Boyd. 
 
The amenities are a significant part of Grand Palm’s appeal and are designed to attract people of all ages. They include a 4,000-square-foot clubhouse with two swimming pools; two dog parks; basketball, tennis, bocce, and volleyball courts; a children’s splash park and playground; and a large, open field for baseball or kickball. Grand Palm’s 39-acre lake has an island studded with pine trees where residents can hike, bike, canoe, and fish. Everything is connected by a trail system. 
 
More than 33 percent of the site is open space. Neal worked with ECo Consultants, Palmetto, Fla., to save as many large, mature trees as possible, preserve wetlands, and maintain wildlife habitats. The natural corridors are interconnected so that wildlife can safely move from area to area.


“Our goal was to make sure that we took advantage of the natural beauty of the property,” Boyd says. “We spent a lot of time [figuring out] how the entry sequence was going to work, and I think we pulled it off fairly successfully.”

 



Grand Palm, a Neal Community in Venice, Fla., will have nearly 2,000 lots and offer five different housing products, including villas and single-family homes, ranging from 1,000 to 2,500 square feet.



CLICK NEXT FOR CABIN JOHN



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New take on the traditional farmhouse



The interior for this updated farmhouse plan in Cabin John, Md., by OPaL LLC, Lanham, Md., is designed for informal living with breakfast and Internet nooks.



Builder/developer Sean Ruppert specializes in small, well-located, close-in communities in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area. By chance, Ruppert was sitting in a land broker’s office when a listing came in for a site in Cabin John, Md. “Four level lots 10 minutes outside of Georgetown, right off the Potomac River, inside the Capital Beltway, with a cute little shopping plaza across the street—it doesn’t get any better,” says Ruppert, the principal of Lanham, Md.-based OPaL.

Cabin John is an eclectic neighborhood with a variety of architectural styles, says Seattle architect Gregory Sparhawk, who has collaborated with Ruppert for many years. “A lot of these communities tend to take on multiple identities as they grow over time,” says Sparhawk. In keeping with the vernacular of older Cabin John homes, he created several iterations of an updated farmhouse. 



“Because of the way the site is laid out, a couple of lots have front-access garages,” Sparhawk says. “We took care not to make those garages too prominent. It was also important to maintain privacy because the homes are fairly close together.”





The exteriors are composed of what he calls “additive forms,” which give the impression of an old farmhouse that has been added onto over the years. “As the family grows, the house grows,” Sparhawk explains. “I tried to keep the elevations fairly true to the style and focus on the proportions of the openings and the massing.”

The interiors are designed for an informal lifestyle. “We never do formal living rooms or dining rooms,” Ruppert says. “We do huge breakfast nooks that seat 10 or 12 people.” 
 
Ruppert, an avid follower of pop culture, admits he gets a lot of design ideas from TV shows (and not necessarily the ones on HGTV). For example, he started including Internet nooks in all of his homes after watching “The Osbournes.”  There are built-in window seats on all the stair landings. “Our stairwells are always on the exterior so we can put windows on every level,” he says.
 


Builder/developer Sean Ruppert designed stairways against an exterior wall to accommodate built-in window seats on the landings.



Ruppert describes Cabin John Crossing as a “Modern Family” type of community. “One [family] has a kid in college, another kid in high school, and a 5-year-old. Another couple combined their two families. And there’s a single person who is raising twins.” All four homes sold at a starting price of $1.8 million.
 
Cabin John Crossing has earned accolades from the housing industry as well as buyers, winning a Best in American Living Award and several regional design awards.



 

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