Stanislaus County home construction in January hit its lowest level in more than two decades, but at least one local builder thinks there's an opportunity in this down market.
Florsheim Homes of Stockton bought up vacant lots in Riverbank and started building modest-size homes with prices starting at $182,900.
"In any market there's a price at which people will come out to buy," said Joseph Anfuso, who runs Florsheim. He is convinced the renamed Valley Oaks development will be popular with buyers.
That subdivision used to be very popular, back during the region's building boom when it was called Sterling Ridge. In 2005 when the 200-lot subdivision was owned by JKB Homes, up to 100 would-be buyers were on the waiting list for homes that had base prices of $342,000 to $431,000.
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Then the housing market crashed and sales dwindled.
By last spring, JKB had slashed its prices, offering a 1,575-square-foot home for $225,340.
Anfuso said his company bought 11 of Sterling Ridge's remaining lots from JKB and another 16 lots from Guaranty Bank, which had repossessed them.
"We bought those lots at a huge discount," said Anfuso, who would not reveal the purchase price. He said funding for the lots came from Florsheim and Steve Mothersell of Modesto's SCM Homes.
At the peak of the building boom, Anfuso said, similar finished lots cost $130,000 to $150,000 each for the land, government fees and infrastructure. He said some foreclosed lots in the Northern San Joaquin Valley are selling for less than $10,000 each, but the Riverbank lots cost more than that.
Low lot costs make it possible for builders to price homes low. But few builders these days are even trying to sell new homes.
In January, only 10 single-family home building permits were issued in Stanislaus County. Compare that with January 2005 when 317 home permits were issued.
Florsheim started construction this month at Valley Oaks, and Anfuso said his crews are hustling to finish as many homes as possible by June 30. That's the deadline for home buyers to qualify for federal income tax credits.
The federal Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009 offers tax credits of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers and up to $6,500 for repeat home buyers.
Only buyers who sign sales contracts by April 30 and complete purchases by June 30 can qualify.
"We sold the first phase (of six homes) with a very quiet release," said Anfuso, noting that most of those buyers are local residents. The homes are being sold only to owner-occupants, rather than to investors.
Valley Oaks' 27 homes will have three floor plans, offering three to five bedrooms. The single-story homes have 1,511 to 2,107 square feet, and the lots average 6,000 square feet.
Base prices for each floor plan range from $182,900 to $215,900.
Some of the lots are in a special property tax district, which will require owners to pay up to $300 per year in additional taxes.
Valley Oaks is at Miwok Way and Pocket Avenue, off Roselle Avenue in Riverbank.
Until the subdivision's first model home is completed this spring, the houses are being sold out of Florsheim's Valley Blossom development in Manteca.
For more information, call 824-6800 or go online to www.FlorsheimHomes.com.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2196.