Before the recession, condos were popping up all over Charlotte.
“There was a condo on every corner,” said real estate developer Wendy Field. “I’d look in the paper and wonder where are all these people coming from” to buy them.
As we all discovered during the recession and financial crisis, there weren’t enough people to buy them all. Developers took painful financial hits as high-rise condos like the Vue and others stalled and were converted to rentals or multi-use projects.
Now, the most prominent residential construction seems to be apartment complexes. They’re putting them up so fast in South End that you can barely keep track.
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Field, one of the few women developing real estate in Charlotte, opted for a different route. She’s offering smaller-scale infill town houses for sale. Her first development, The Cottages on Euclid in Dilworth, quickly sold out after she announced the 18-home project last year. (She’d said at the time that she expected that would take a couple of years).
Now she’s got another townhome project called The Cottages on Providence. It’s a 19-home Charleston-style development on Providence Road just above Wendover Road, selling for $699,000 to $875,000.
If what’s going on with her two projects are any indication, the market for new townhomes, which took a solid hit in the recession, may be coming back along with single-family construction.
Eleven of the 19 Providence homes, ranging from 2,300 to 2,800 square feet, have already sold despite the fact that she’s only just now formally announcing them to the public. Word of mouth spread during a successful, if contested, rezoning effort.
“It’s been a great little project,” she told me. “People are making very quick decisions.”
Bill Miley, Charlotte market director for Metrostudy, a firm that tracks new-home construction trends, said hardly anyone seems to be building condos. He said out of 24 active condominium projects in his Charlotte database, just four showed any construction starts within the past year.
There’s more activity happening in townhome communities. In fact, he said, 15 out of the 93 townhome communities in his database are doing more than 20 construction starts per year.
His database showed no other townhomes as expensive as what Field has planned on Providence.
She said many of the buyers and potential buyers on the Providence project have been downsizing empty nesters from Myers Park, Eastover and Foxcroft.
There’s a market for more infill townhomes like hers, she said, with higher-end touches like the gas lantern light fixtures, iron balconies and real wood shutters she’s using on Providence.
Lenders are apparently taking note, too. She said she had multiple banks interested in working with her on the Providence project after the success of the Dilworth project. She opted to stick with NewBridge Bank, which gave her the construction loan for the first one before the housing market recovery had fully taken hold.
“That was a pretty daring thing for them to do,” she said.
She figures she’s not the only one eyeing the infill market, though. With new subdivisions having eaten up virtually all the available land in Mecklenburg County, more and more developers – even the big tract housing builders – will be looking for opportunities to do infill townhome projects.
The pendulum might have swung heavily toward rentals during the downturn, but Field’s recent experience suggests infill projects in desirable neighborhoods are ripe for plucking.
“The renters are going to move back to ‘for sale,’” she said. “It’s not going to be a huge fast movement, but Charlotte is a place where people can afford to buy.”