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David Ford on a master plan buildout with 25 builders and no model homes

David Ford on a master plan buildout with 25 builders and no model homes

The 486-acre mixed-use community has more than 1,000 home sites sold, and home prices are about $200,000 above the average selling point in the Bend residential market. 

April 8, 2016
Northwest Crossing Streetscape
This article first appeared in the PB April 2016 issue of Pro Builder.

David Ford

David Ford 

General Manager

Northwest Crossing, Bend, Ore.

Typically, master planned communities are built out by a single builder or by a half-dozen companies that buy lots and put up their production-built homes. But West Bend Property Company, a partnership between Brooks Resources and Tennant Family Limited Partnership, used a different model, recruiting a guild of 25 home builders to buy lots through a lottery.
The result is a 486-acre mixed-use community with more than 1,000 home sites sold, and home prices that are about $200,000 above the average selling point in the Bend residential market. Northwest Crossing features tree-lined streets with homes of varying architectural styles amid plentiful parks and open spaces and a convenient retail center nearby. The development was named one of the 50 best master planned communities in the nation by Where To Retire magazine.

Q: Why did the developers decide to pursue a buildout model with 25 home builders and no model homes for the community? 
A: While creating the NorthWest Crossing (NWX) master plan, we decided that diversity was an important goal. We wanted NWX to look and feel like an extension of the established neighborhoods of Bend’s west side, built over many years. We felt that establishing a guild of quality builders would help us reach this goal, rather than selling lots to a few production builders, as each builder has his or her own distinctive way of designing and building homes; a unique fingerprint, if you will. Having 25 builders in our NWX Builders Guild helped us achieve this design diversity. 
Most of the master planned, mixed-use communities we visited during our planning phase had partnered with large production builders and sold them blocks of lots. These builders would then manage the marketing and sales of their production-built homes. We felt it was important to retain control over the marketing of NWX because the concept was so new to the Central Oregon area. 
At the time we started developing NWX, the idea of a 5,000-to-6,000-square- foot lot was somewhat foreign to Bendites. In fact, we had to work with the city to develop a new overlay zone to accommodate a higher-density project. 
Our single-family home architectural styles include Craftsman, Tudor Revival, Colonial, American FourSquare, Prairie, Mid-Century Modern, and more, which makes for a varied, interesting streetscape. In addition to the diverse architecture, we’ve customized our development plans to save as many Ponderosa pines as possible, giving the neighborhood a more established appearance.

Q: How does a builder buy lots in NWX, and what happens once they do?
A: With the release of each phase of developed lots at NWX, we offer the lots to the builders through a lottery process. 
Prior to the lottery, each builder indicates how many lots it’s interested in buying. We adjust the lot allocations to match the number of available lots. Then, at the lottery, each builder selects a lot when its lottery number is called. We typically have three to four rounds of the lottery until all lots are selected. After the lottery, the builders work with their architect/designer to present their home plans to the North West Crossing Architectural Review Committee for review and approval.

Q: How did the developer pick the builders?
A: West Bend Property Company selected local builders that it had previously worked with or builders that had a strong reputation for quality home building in Central Oregon. 
Builders that wish to be part of the NWX Builders Guild go through an approval process that evaluates whether or not each one has the same commitment to quality, sustainability, and aesthetics as the developers do. We limit the number of builders in our guild to 25, as this allows all builders to participate in the lottery. Any builder that wants to join the NWX Builders Guild is asked to submit a letter of interest introducing its business. Prior to each lot release, the West Bend Property Company board of directors considers any potential additions 

Q: Who sells the houses and how do they keep 25 builders happy and satisfied that their products are getting enough attention? 
A: Each builder is free to work with whatever real estate brokerage they choose. Most work with Harcourts The Garner Group as they are located in NorthWest Crossing and have strong connections to the neighborhood and community. I believe our builders are quite happy with building and selling homes in NorthWest Crossing as home buyers often go into contract on a home before construction concludes and sometimes before it even begins. 

Q: How is it working out?
A: It is working quite well. NorthWest Crossing homes are holding average home values at nearly 50 percent higher than average home values in Bend, Oregon as a whole. The lack of a model doesn’t seem to deter buyers when they have confidence in the builder who is already vetted, the architectural review process which is fairly strict, and the developer that has demonstrated thoughtful neighborhood design. We periodically survey our residents and we consistently receive very positive feedback on the design of the community being one of the main reasons they choose to move to NWX.

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