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Charlotte new home market heats up

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

Pent-up consumer demand is heating up the new-home market in south Charlotte, with several projects announced in the last month.

The projects, ranging from a 53-condo community in Ballantyne to a 126-luxury-home community in Weddington, suggest homebuilder confidence is on the rise, experts say.

•  Crosland Southeast and Childress Klein Properties. Developers have planned a $200 million multiuse project featuring houses, medical facilities, office buildings and retail space on 90 acres of farmland in south Charlotte. The project, which needs to be rezoned, would be across Providence Road from Rea Village Shopping Center and Providence Country Club. As many as 180 single-family homes and townhouses and 375 upscale apartments are expected.

An upscale grocery store would anchor as much as 250,000 square feet of retail space. Another 90,000 square feet is planned as restaurant and shopping space.

Two office buildings, as tall as six stories each, and two medical office buildings totaling 60,000 square feet also are planned. The project will include parking decks.

•  Bromley Estates. Toll Bros. purchased the failed new-home development in February 2012. At the time, there were 17 custom homes and 103 empty lots. The builder has sold 24 new homes since opening in September 2012. The neighborhood features six home designs priced from the low $500,000s to the $900,000s, ranging from 3,100 to 5,000 square feet.

•  Fifty-Five 16 Ballantyne. LightWay Properties LLC has requested a rezoning to allow for 53 townhomes on about 6.5 acres on the north side of Ballantyne Commons Parkway, east of its intersection with Annalexa Lane. The two-story townhomes would come with three- and four- bedrooms and would cost between $250,000 and $400,000.

•  Avignon. David Weekley Homes has requested a rezoning to allow for a combination of 36 detached and attached single-family homes on 5.22 acres on the east side of Sharon View Road, just south of Sharon Road behind Philips Place shopping complex in SouthPark. Spokeswoman Ann Holdsworth could not give specific prices for the properties but said they would be “executive priced housing” compatible with the area.

“There is an uptick in activity,” said Wendell Dixon, the documents manager for Charlotte’s Code Enforcement Department. “It looks different than it did pre-recession. And I think some sectors are still crawling their way out of it. But it certainly appears that things are on the rise and headed in the right direction.”

Dixon said his department is seeing a “slow, steady climb out of the 2008-2010 recession.”

Construction value and new home inspections are up, he said, as are permitting for new residential projects.

In June 2013, the city issued 339 permits for single-family detached homes, up 15 percent from the same month last year, in which the city issued 294 permits.

From January to June, the city issued 3,300 single-family-home permits, compared with 2,315 permits issued in the same period in 2012, an increase of 42 percent.

Also in June, the city issued 43 permits for townhomes, up 126 percent from the 19 issued in June 2012.

Jeremy Schumacher, project manager for Bromley Estates, said developers are responding to homebuyer demand that has grown as existing homes for sale have dwindled.

That demand, he said, has also increased as interest rates are climbing, giving residents “more urgency to go ahead and buy and take advantage of the opportunity.”

He said Toll Bros. is on pace to double its sales activity from last year in Charlotte, although he could not provide specific numbers.

Schumacher also said the company has started four new communities in the past 10 months in the Charlotte area: Bromley Estates at Weddington, The Enclave at Longview, Preserve at Marvin, and Regency at Palisades.

To meet the high demand for housing, developers are “scrambling about trying to find land,” said Rick McCorkle, owner of Weddington-based LightWay Properties.

“It’s the old supply and demand,” he said. “There’s not nearly the supply of homes there once was, especially new construction.”

But don’t expect to see the kind of home-building frenzy of last decade, he said.

For instance, in June 2006, the city issued 793 single-family home permits and 225 townhome permits.

“Banks may have short memories, but not that short,” he said. “I think through this recession their memories are going to last a little longer.”

McCorkle said that, previously, anyone could secure a loan with the bank to develop property; now there are tighter lending restrictions, meaning only seasoned developers – or those with cash – are likely to get approval.

Those developers are more likely to have a strategic plan, he said, which will mean the market won’t be as saturated with speculative housing.

“That just blew up in our face,” he said. “Now it’s going to be more controlled and more long lasting. You’re not going to see all of this stuff dumped on the market all of a sudden. It’s going to be strategically done.”

Arriero: 704-358-5945; On Twitter: @earriero
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