KB Home Changes the Rules in Santa Clarita Valley

“When people are giving directions to their home, they always refer to some unique feature of their house as a landmark,” said Tom DiPrima, Executive Vice President, KB Home Southern California Division, in a recent Santa Clarita Signal article. “Buyers don’t want a cookie-cutter look to every home on the street.”

KB Home recently opened a new home interior design center in Santa Clarita, one of only three in Southern California.  With the opening of the center, the public homebuilder is putting homebuyers in the driver’s seat by offering customization choices that were nearly unheard of in prior market cycles, including lot selection without imposed lot premiums. 

KB Home is currently selling homes from three new communities within the Santa Clarita Valley, making it one of the most active builders in this submarket.  Home prices range from the mid $300,000’s to the high $500,000’s. Other active builders include Pardee Homes, K. Hovnanian Homes, Lennar, Shapell Homes, and D.R. Horton.

The Santa Clarita Valley is a desirable location for Southern California families as it is known as one of the safest communities in the U.S. and offers multiple high ranking schools. 

The majority of the Valley’s future developable lots are currently under the control of only a handful of developers.  Therefore, residential land opportunities are a precious find right now in this favorable submarket.

The Land Advisors team recently secured a new listing in the Santa Clarita Valley.  Stay tuned for more details to come!

Source: Michel Faris, Marketing Consultant, (949) 852-8288 ext. 18

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New Normal: Design Does Matter

Take a look at the recent potential small-lot single family projects in the Bay Area and you might notice an interesting trend… while most people would expect the average sales price for a typical small-lot single family home to track lower as the home is placed on a smaller lot, there is a point at which the home-buying market no longer differentiates between lot sizes.

Homebuilders selling homes on a 6,000 square foot lot versus a 5,000 square foot lot see a large difference in cost and purchase price, and the same goes for builders selling homes on a 5,000 square foot lot versus a 4,000 square foot lot.  However, right now in the Bay Area, when a builder drops its lot size below 4,000 square feet, the market levels out.  The design on the inside of the house dictates fluctuations in cost and asking price, not the lot size.

For example, during the peak of the homebuilding market in 2006 in San Ramon, floor plans were of less importance to attracting loads of eager home buyers.  But in today’s highly competitive marketplace, any perceived inefficiency in a floor plan can result in a house being passed by.  The current market environment is giving homebuilders the opportunity to create innovative and attractive floor plans on small lots in high density areas that were overlooked in previous market cycles.

Homebuilders looking to reach the ever-prized “qualified home buyer” need to focus on differentiating their new home communities more on the house itself and less on lot size.  Now, more than ever, they need to focus on the “livability” of the product from a floor plan standpoint.  In high density areas like the Bay Area, the way every square foot is used can mean the difference between big margins or big yawns.  All is not lost though; we can help point clients in the direction of new architectural innovations that allow formerly inefficient site and house plans to be reworked into projects that can meet the demands of today’s discriminating new home buyer.

Source: Steve Reilly, Marketing Consultant, (925) 368-3128

Big Moves and Bright Ideas in Northern Central Valley

Amazon.com makes a move (to CA): Even the cynics out there are saying that NOW is the time to buy a home.  With interest rates and home values at an all time low, it is certainly a buyer’s market these days.  The problem is remains however, that limited numbers of potential buyers have enough equity ready to put into buying a new home.  The unemployment rate in California and nationwide is still painfully high and we are all waiting for job creation to help boost the economy and the homebuilding industry. 

Good news for California:  Amazon.com made a promise last year to bring 10,000 new jobs to California, and now, according to SacBee.com, the online sales giant is apparently ready to make good on that pledge, starting in western Stanislaus County.  Amazon is expected to announce soon it will build a 1,500-employee distribution center off I-5 in Patterson, west of Modesto.

Patterson profile:

  • Although Patterson has experienced few to no home sales in last two years, the city has shown to be a viable submarket for home sales. From 2002 to 2009 just short of 3,000 new homes sold in this area.
  • Fewer than 200 “finished” lots remain within the City of Patterson.
  • 1,500 new Amazon jobs will dramatically reduce current 18.4% unemployment rate.

New Vision for Merced: At the Merced City Council meeting this month, the public weighed in on the Merced Vision 2030 General Plan, which City officials hope will turn Merced into a dynamic urban entity by 2030.

The concerns at the meeting varied… UC Merced officials were elated with the inclusion of the campus and the University Community housing project in the “Vision.”  On the other hand, some city residents were concerned about the population projections and the potential impacts on agricultural land.

The City Council approved the plan by a 6-1 vote.  Castle Farms, a proposed mixed-use development at Highway 59 and Bellevue Road, and Mission Lakes, a community plan bounded by Mission Avenue to the north, agricultural land to the south and Highway 59 to east, were both left out of the plan because some of the City Council members believe the footprint of the plan is too big.

Bright Idea on Campus: They say college is the time to “find yourself.”  Well the students of the newly-opened University of California, Merced are taking that idea to the next level, and are finding themselves in some pretty nice homes.  Many students are ditching the traditional, crammed on-campus dorms for a more spacious and luxurious option: the vacant foreclosed “McMansions” left behind by the housing boom.

Nearly 5,200 students attend UC Merced, but the university has only enough campus housing for about a third of its population.  The Merced community is hearing mixed reactions from the students who are renting the 5+ bedroom homes and using them in an unconventional way, but overall the sentiment is currently positive.  Neighbors are happy to not have homes left vacant on their street, and the current title holders are happy to be collecting some kind of income from the properties.

Source: RJ Radler, Senior Marketing Consultant, (916) 784-3329 ext. 12

Question for West Riverside Co. in 2012: Where are the Sellers?

In 2010 and 2011, a majority of the land sales were driven by financial institutions that were in a distressed position to move land holdings off their books. The majority of the buyers for these properties in 2010-2011 were speculative investors that had a 3-5 year business plan before selling.  Now that the financial institutions have sold through most of these distressed assets in West Riverside, the question to investors, developers and homebuilders is who now is in a position to sell?

LAO – West Riverside Current Projects: Land Advisors’ West Riverside Team is tracking a number of off-market projects that it expects to transact on this year. The Team just secured a high profile mixed-use listing in the City of Riverside that it hopes to bring to market in the next 30 days. 

2012 Land Activity: On January 18th, 318 acres of unimproved land in the City of Corona sold at the Court House steps to a land investor.

Source: Mitch Casillas, Marketing Consultant, (949) 852-8288 x23

Central Valley Housing Market on the Mend?

Home sales are typically slow everywhere in December but some markets in the Central Valley showed signs of life at the end of 2011. According to Affiliated Appraisers, the median sale price for existing single family homes in the Bakersfield area was $132,000 in December 2011, up 9.6% over December 2010. The supply of active listings of homes for sale dropped 9.3%.  Foreclosures continue to significantly weigh on the market as bank-owned property accounted for roughly a third of the homes sold in 2011.

Investors for single family homes, who buy property to rent to tenants, are returning to the Central Valley, and made up roughly a third of home sales in 2011.  Some successful investors were able to “flip” property for a profit.  Affiliated Appraisers reported that 23 homes were “flipped” in the Bakersfield area since April 23 of 2011. 

Home prices have fallen a whopping 56% from the peak in June 2006 (current median home price is $131,500).  As long as banks do not flood the market with distressed product, home prices should remain somewhat stable in the coming months.

As a consequence to uncertainty in traditional financial investments like stocks and bonds, Central Valley investors have now turned to existing multi-family buildings. As banks continue to work through their single family detached REO inventory, this seems like a logical place to deploy capital. Occupancy rates are hovering around 90% for even for C and D level properties.  The Bakersfield area market had over 160 multi-family residential sales transactions in 2011.   However, it still makes little sense to develop new multi-family land at this point, as direct costs and fees are prohibitive.

Source: Jason Hepp, Senior Marketing Consultant, (661) 702-9080 ext. 14

Closings and Openings in Orange County

The Land Advisors Orange County Team is very proud to announce the closing of 143 townhomes at Planning Area “T” at Vista Del Verde in Yorba Linda – CONGRATULATIONS to Taylor Morrison on its future Palisades community, and to developers Aera Energy and Toll Brothers for completing the final sale in their premier master plan.  Read the complete press release HERE.

Senior Marketing Consultant Mike Hunter, who has over forty years experience selling residential land in Orange County, has worked with Aera Energy and Toll Brothers on the Vista Del Verde project since its beginning. “Land prices at the project have held up over the years, thanks in part to the North OC site’s proximity to Los Angeles. Los Angeles and North OC have continued to draw plenty of interest from institutional investors that fund homebuilders,” Hunter told the Orange County Business Journal.  OCBJ reported that the Area “T” transaction is likely one of Orange County’s most expensive in recent years.

NOW OPEN: Last quarter KB Home debuted a new home community at Whisler Ridge, 58 single family homes in Lake Forest.  Land Advisors’ OC Team sold these lots, which sit on approximately 12.7 acres near the 241 Toll Road, to KB Home in 2011.  These unique “net zero” homes are priced from $654,990 to $799,990.

In North Orange County news, Standard Pacific Homes recently opened its Alcott community in Buena Park, priced from the $610,000s.

Source:  Allison Rawlins, Marketing Consultant, (949) 852-8288 x26

Giddy Up Fresno!

Hold on to your hat… New homebuilders who have lot inventory in the Fresno sub-market are now building again!  Fresno construction starts are UP since the same time last year. 

Major Player: Lennar HomesFresno and Clovis combined saw 219 new construction starts in the last quarter of 2011, (4Q 2010 saw only 161 starts).  Lennar Homes led the way with the most starts of any builder with 43.  Wilson Homes and Bonadelle Neighborhoods came in a distant second and third with 27 and 26 starts, respectively. The most active sub-market in 4Q 2011 was Clovis South with 66 starts (up from 44 starts in 4Q 2010).

Lennar also controls the most lot inventory of any builder in Fresno.  Of the 2,425 total vacant finished lots in the Fresno sub-market, 296 (12%) are owned by the public homebuilder as of January 2012.

Project of NoteBonadelle’s Bella Vista at Brighton is seeing impressive sales in its early phases.  The project’s success is breathing new life into the Millerton area sub-market as the first phase of the Brighton Master Plan.  The area boasts a ton of amenities including its location… a stones’ throw from Millerton Lake & Marina, Eagle Springs Golf & Country Club, and Table Mountain Casino.  With a natural setting and amenity package that is unrivaled in the greater Fresno area, Bonadelle is seeing buyers come out and purchase as a lifestyle choice and value play to living ‘in town.’  The Fresno Office of the Land Advisors Organization can bring you up to speed on this up-and-coming sub-market.

Home PricesThe latest data from Fiserv Case Shiller shows that national home prices are expected to grow at an annualized rate of 3.2% between 2011 and Q2 2016. BusinessInsider.com combed through Fiserv’s data and picked the best housing markets for the next five years…  Madera ranks No. 3 out of 15 on the list with anticipated annualized growth from 2011 – 2016 of +10.4%.

Multi-familyNew high-end apartments finally return to Fresno with an apartment complex called The Shires. The Penstar Group, a real estate development and construction company in Fresno, recently broke ground on the project and is looking to accommodate pent-up demand now that local rent rates have leveled off.

New Office Location! The Land Advisors’ Fresno office has relocated to 759 W. Alluvial Avenue, Suite 103, Fresno, CA 93711.  The new office phone number is: (559) 549-6326.  Stop by and say Hello!

Source: Mark Utman, Marketing Consultant, mobile: (949) 533-8284