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Hall residential home construction rising, but still far from its peak

POSTED: June 20, 2013 12:29 a.m.

Demand is driving new residential housing construction in Hall County, but it will take a few more years to reach prerecession levels.

Hot spots for new home construction include the Cresswind at Lanier, Mundy Mill, Sterling on the Lake and Village at Deaton Creek subdivisions, said Gainesville real estate executive Frank Norton Jr.

Hall County’s annual new home starts are about 340, a big decrease compared with 2,400 new home permits in 2006. But Norton points out that in the first quarter of 2009, 18 houses were permitted, compared with the first quarter of 2013, when permits were issued for 95 homes.

“There’s a slow uptick in construction housing permits,” Norton said. “The change in the economy has drastically changed the amount of construction that’s been going on.”

Cresswind and Deaton Creek are both senior- or active-adult communities, and targeting pent-up demand in the aging baby boomer market is paying off, said Bob Rademacher, vice president of Kolter Homes.

“We’re building as fast as we can,” he said. “We’re going like crazy.”

The Pew Research Center reported that starting in 2011 and continuing for the next 19 years, about 10,000 people a day in the U.S. will turn 65 years old. The Baby Boomer generation accounted for 26 percent of the total U.S. population in December 2010, the nonpartisan think tank website stated.

“It’s the single largest demographic and wealthiest demographic in the history of the world,” Rademacher said.

Kolter has 35 houses under construction and expects to have 70 in progress by the middle of July. There are 223 homes already finished in the “resort community” neighborhood, including the 63 there when the developer purchased the property. Kolter has sold 180 homes in the past two years. The houses range from about $199,000 to $600,000, and the subdivision is expected to have about 950 houses when it’s fully built out.

Most buyers in the community are from the metro Atlanta area, but some have come from other states, chasing grandchildren, Rademacher said.

“A lot of our out-of-state or out-of-market buyers are here looking to establish more of a permanent relationship with their grandkids,” he said.

There’s also pent-up demand pushing new construction in the Mundy Mill subdivision, which has seen a range of buyers from young families to those in their 80s. The subdivision is designed as a mixed-use community with some future commercial and multifamily space planned. Butler Property LLC, owned by Wendell Starke, is the property developer and owner.

The subdivision has nearly 100 completed houses, and 21 are currently under construction, said Sales Manager John Schwartz, with Keller Williams Lanier Partners. Prices can range between $149,900 and $189,900.

The market started to improve late last year when people who put off homebuying during the recession starting making purchases, he said. Word of mouth and the news media play a big role in convincing people that the housing market is on the mend.

“In this business, it’s hard to see the real signs,” Schwartz said.

The neighborhood is permitted for 1,248 homes. Many homebuyers are from the surrounding areas, such as Cumming, Buford and Alpharetta, Schwartz said.

Starke said Butler Property is negotiating with an independent developer to take over part of the subdivision. He declined to name the developer.

Hall County still has a good deal of vacant developed lots to absorb, but it’s down from 6,400 lots to 5,700, Norton said.

There’s a demand for hundreds more houses to be built and a growing shortage of housing in the county, Norton said. There’s a four-month supply of new and resale houses, and multiple offers are becoming more common on houses priced under $250,000. But lending is difficult for speculative housing, and there’s a need for more builders and workers.


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