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Finisterra at Firelight

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Finisterra at Firelight

The latest project from Joyce Homes in master-planned Highlands Ranch, Colo., is in Firelight, an upscale subdivision of detached single-family homes with its own homeowners association.

By Bob Sperber, Senior Editor April 30, 2004
This article first appeared in the PB May 2004 issue of Pro Builder.


In the Plan 5 model's kitchen, stainless steel fixtures and an oversize island with a cooktop meet retro cabinetry and an optional rustic floor made of wide planks of reclaimed, distressed oak.
Plan 4 is one of the six Finisterra designs that Joyce Homes first used at Firelight.
Vital Stats
Location: Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Builder: Joyce Homes
Developer: Shea Homes
Architect: Woodley Architectural Group
Community size: 1,900 homes (81 are Joyce's) on 505 acres
Pre-sales started: September 2002
Models opened: January 2003
Sales: 63 as of Feb. 29, 2004
Home type: single-family detached
Number of plans: 6
Square footages: 2,800 to 3,400; many optioned to 5,000
Price range: high $400,000s to low $500,000s
Buyer profile: primarily first and second move-up families
Wood, tile and stone textures collide for a visual treat in Plan 4's courtyard patio, accessed from a nook between the kitchen and great room. The courtyard lies between two turrets and a second-floor deck, which in many homes leads to an optional office-hobby-media room that buyers can add above the garage.
A wine-tasting room emerges from a staircase landing in the Plan 5 model. Stonework continues from the family room fireplace wall down the stairs to the basement, giving the illusion of a larger wine cellar. In another optical trick, the countertop, wine rack and false cabinet doors hide the back wall’s protruding cement foundation.
Ornate ceiling details, window arches, custom precast stone and distressed oak flooring add elegance to Plan 4's living room.
This master bath features a Roman tub with tiled surround, a separate walk-in shower, twin china lavatories and satin-finish plumbing and trim hardware. The room, which includes a walk-in closet, is accessed via a media/sitting room carved from the interior of a turret.

The latest project from Joyce Homes in master-planned Highlands Ranch, Colo., is in Firelight, an upscale subdivision of detached single-family homes with its own homeowners association. Joyce, the smallest-volume builder of the six at Firelight, is nearing completion on 81 homes there for Denver-area buyers.

Joyce's Firelight lots overlook an 8,200-acre open-space reserve. "Shea carved out great lots for us with great mountain views," says Joyce president Bob Woodley, referring to Highlands Ranch developer Shea Homes.

The builder's market niche - semicustom homes for move-up buyers - presented another opportunity. Woodley reasoned that among the 90,000 residents of Highlands Ranch's 36,700 homes (by Shea's estimate), there had to be upwardly mobile families who wanted more home without changing school systems. "There was pent-up demand at Highlands Ranch and not a lot of move-up opportunities," says Mike Woodley, Bob's brother, who designed the Finisterra collection of homes, which debuted at Firelight.

So Joyce positioned its six Finisterra plans in the niche between $350,000 to $400,000 pure production homes and custom homes costing $700,000 and up.

"The dot-com bubble had burst and September 11 hit just about the time we were negotiating to buy the property," Bob Woodley says. "We looked at sales in the area and found that builders were getting one to 11/2 sales a month. To sell 81 lots and have a successful project, we would have to do a lot better than that. We had to build something compelling."

Mike Woodley adds, "In a slow market, you have to give people reasons to move up. One reason is feeling like they can build a custom home." His design mantra: "To build production homes that give the appearance of complexity with structural simplicity."

Joyce Homes offered buyers a handful of semicustom options when it opened in 1991 and has evolved to the point where its Firelight buyers have the broadest range of choices yet - more than 120 often-significant design and building changes.

"Most builders I've heard of allow only interior changes," says Amber Woodley, Joyce's director of business operations and Bob's daughter. "They let you move a wall if it's not a bearing wall. But we've built six-car garages, added square footage, taken the kitchen from one house and put it into a totally different plan. We let people customize whatever they can imagine. If it's at all possible, we'll do it."

Joyce's marketing campaign reinforced that message. The Finisterra sales packet says: "Bob builds you a great home, but he understands that it is to be your home. So move walls, enlarge garages, change areas, add bedrooms, add bathrooms, finish basements and enlarge decks. The list of changes is limited only by your imagination."

Bob Woodley calls traffic in the two Finisterra models "unbelievable for this market" - 25 to 50 weekday walk-ins and 100 to 150 people on weekends from January 2003 to January 2004. Through February 2004, 63 of the 81 homes had sold, with closings scheduled through January 2005. Approximately 80% of buyers are from Highlands Ranch, and 85% of sales are brokered. Repeat customers include a young family who bought their third Joyce home in Firelight.

Woodley regulates production so that Joyce starts, sells and closes three homes a month, which he says is "about as fast as we want to go."

Since the project's inception in uncertain times, base prices have risen roughly $50,000 to the high $400,000s/ low $500,000s. Lot premiums have reached $150,000 for the best views, but Woodley calls location only part of his success story. "At $500,000 and up, people are looking for more than just shelter," he says. "They're looking for location, plans and the ability to change the house to make it special. That's what has drawn people to our projects."

That's also what has helped Finisterra homes sell for well over base price, with a few topping $1 million.

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