Building Options

Developers are giving buyers more options — smaller homes and lower prices — throughout Stanislaus County.

With prices starting at $231,900, new designs are wedging more homes onto less land. Stanislaus' median home sales price was $377,500 last month.

Two new developments — Park Villas at Sherman Ranch in Newman and Sequoia Gate at Bridle Ridge in Oakdale — are taking different approaches to provide what they consider affordable starter homes.

Park Villas is selling 123 small single-family houses on oddly shaped lots with tiny yards. The unusual lot and floor plan configurations enable 12 homes to be built per acre, which is twice as many as traditional developments.

"They're called pull-aparts," said Dale Lovelace, vice president of sales and marketing for Park Villas' builder, SCM Homes of California. "If you took all five of the home models, you could push them together almost like a jigsaw puzzle and they would look like one big house."

Instead of one big house, Park Villas offers five home styles, including two- to four-bedroom floor plans. They range in price from $231,900 to $278,900 for houses with 964 to 1,711 square feet. The lot sizes range from 2,230 to 2,743 square feet.

Traditional lot sizes are 5,000 to 6,000 square feet.

"We really believe in this product," said Lovelace, whose SCM headquarters is in Modesto. Park Villas' grand opening is set for Feb. 24.

SCM plans to build the same homes with similar prices in Riverbank. Construction is expected to start by the end of the year.

"We think we're going to attract a lot of first-time buyers, especially those who want a little more space than a condo but not a full-blown yard," Lovelace said.

The side yards at Park Villas are about three feet wide, and the back yards come with patios and shrubs but no grass. There are landscaped walkways throughout the development, and some of the homes face the walkways rather than the surrounding streets.

To cover the costs of walkway maintenance and other features, Park Villas' homeowners will have to pay association fees of $130 per month.

There also will be homeowner association fees at Sequoia Gate, Oakdale's new town house project. Sequoia's monthly fees will start at about $222, but they're expected to drop to about $104 once all 92 units are sold.

'Buying a lifestyle'

Sequoia Gate's models won't open until this spring, but units have started selling for $250,000 to $300,000.

"Anybody who buys there is buying a lifestyle as well as the community," said Bill Mayben, president of the Central Valley division of Standard Pacific Homes, which is building Sequoia Gate. "These are a great opportunity for people who don't want to maintain a yard."

The town houses range from 1,231 to 1,655 square feet. The four floor plans have three bedrooms, two stories and two-car garages that are accessed from back alleys. Some are in four-unit buildings, others are in six-unit buildings.

Sequoia Gate and Park Villas aren't the only Stanislaus County developments offering new homes for under $300,000 or on smaller-than-traditional lots.

Vermont Villas in Turlock is selling 1,430-square-foot homes for $289,900, which is $10,000 less than their price in the fall, when construction began. Those homes are on 2,300to 3,000-square-foot lots. Only one of the 19 planned homes has sold. The developer is Alex Gomez.

Valley Rose in Ceres is selling 1,207- to 1,785-square-foot homes for $266,900 to $328,990. Those lots are about 3,500 square feet.

"We haven't had a sale there yet this year, and we're scratching our head as to why," said Brian Lange, spokesman for Valley Rose's builder, Florsheim Homes. Most of the 51-home development sold quickly last spring and summer, but nine homes remain.

Lange said Florsheim plans to start building more small homes on small lots in Manteca this spring in a development called Valley Blossom.

Norwood Heights in Ceres has homes priced from $289,400 for 1,296 square feet. Lots are 2,000 to 3,200 square feet. About 12 of the 53 lots have been sold by Pacific Pride Communities.

Modesto also has some small-lot developments, but prices aren't as low.

The Groves at Falling Leaf has prices from $329,990 for 1,620-square-foot houses built by William Lyon Homes. That's about $49,000 less than what the developer was asking in the fall.

The Groves has changed its marketing strategy. It used to describe the homes as "clustered" around courtyards, but now they're referred to as "garden homes," according to Carrie Newbery, the builder's marketing director. The Groves has 2,300- to 3,200-square-foot lots that share driveways.

Another development that has shared driveways and small lots is The Cottages at Crossroads in Riverbank by Morrison Homes. Houses are priced from $334,990 for 1,718 square feet on lots that average about 3,000 square feet.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at at 578-2196 or jnsbranti@modbee.com.