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Realtor: Price cuts spark renewed interest in Flowery Branch housing development
A sign advertises the Waterstone Crossing development at the corner of Thurmon Tanner Parkway and Cantrell Road. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Things are looking up for Waterstone Crossing, a Flowery Branch town home development that had, like many other fledgling developments, stumbled in the deep recession.

Earlier this month, the South Hall city issued 16 permits for new homes in the development, which is between Atlanta Highway and Cantrell Road. By contrast, the city issued 52 residential permits for all of 2008.

"There hadn’t been activity there in months," said James Riker, planning director.

Cheri Slappey, a Realtor selling homes in Waterstone, said her aunt’s company, Buford-based Peggy Slappey Properties, has sold 12 units since it began work there six weeks ago.

"We have one standing, finished home available," she said Tuesday. "... And we have someone coming out today who’ll possibly be writing a contract on it."

Northstar Builders and Developers began the 200-unit complex several years ago, with homes priced from $132,900 to $138,900, according to Flowery Branch’s Web site.

Construction took off swiftly, with town homes and streets, as well as amenities, spreading across the development.

But then the economy went south. Later, the original builder hit foreclosure, Riker said.

Buford-based People’s Bank & Trust, which had the underlying loan, "has come in, hired a builder and decided to build out every lot they own in there," he added.

Bank officials "felt encouraged they would still be able to get some activity going there, so we’re encouraged someone is building in there now," Riker said.

The project is 44 units to completion, with People’s Bank owning 16 lots.

"We’re hoping that if People’s Bank ... is able to build those out through its builder and sell them, then ... the people who will ultimately get (the remaining lots) by virtue of foreclosure will do the same," Riker said.

"And we’ll at least have that development built out, and that’s always a good sign."

People’s Bank officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Slappey said she believes that a lower price range, $99,900 to $134,900, has attracted buyers.

"The lower the price range, the more people who can afford it," she said.

Slappey said agents can write contracts for the homes that will be under construction, and the pricing will be the same. The new homes will be finished within 90 days, she said.

Amy Asevedo, vice president of Waterstone’s homeowners association, said she is encouraged by the signs of renewed growth, even though she bought in the neighborhood about two years ago.

That was just before the housing market’s collapse.

"Six months after I moved here, I noticed that (construction) just started to stop," she said.

Asevedo said she understands the reasoning behind the lower pricing.

"(The philosophy has been) if you don’t sell homes, it’s going to get worse," Asevedo said. "Let us come in, stop the bleeding, get the homes built and that’s when property values will go back up."

She sure longs for that day.

"I’m $30,000 upside-down in my mortgage right now ... but I know I’m not alone in that," Asevedo said.