Demand exceeding supply in some cases

May 04, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

Much of the new home construction in Washington County in recent years has focused on homes for empty-nesters, higher-end single family housing, or mixed developments with single-family homes, and townhouses, according to Realtors, developers and mortgage brokers.

This type of housing may give developers greater profits, but regardless, the demand is meeting or exceeding the supply in many cases, Realtors and developers said.

The number of permits issued for new construction by the home's value were not available, but county officials confirmed the increase in higher-end home construction the last few years.

Higher-end homes

With land prices on the rise, many developers are choosing to build higher-end homes on their lots to make a greater profit, said Taylor Oliver, president of Oliver Homes. Oliver Homes builds homes ranging from the traditionally more affordable $120,000 on up to higher-end homes.

Sometimes developers build higher-end homes because they want to live in that neighborhood and they want the homes around them to be similarly priced, Oliver said.

Another reason higher-end homes are being built is because national builders are entering the market and bringing with them the same house designs they used in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, Oliver said.

Much of the higher-end new construction is going up in southern Washington County, especially along the Md. 67 corridor.

The area is convenient to commuters working in the Washington, D.C., region and moving further west to get more house for their money, Realtor Roger Fairbourn said.

Not all those homes are being bought by new residents to the county, Realtors said. Washington County residents who are moving on to their second or third home also are buying the more expensive housing.

Residents in the area said many of the homes were selling for from approximately $300,000 to more than $500,000.

Mixed housing

Washington County residents should get used to seeing more mixed developments that offer single family homes, townhouses and apartments because home buyers have different needs and developers can make more money with mixed developments, said Debra Valentine, a builder, developer and Realtor.

Townhouses use less land then traditional single-family homes and are sometimes the only thing developers can afford to build and make their money back on costly land, Fairbourn said.

Developer Paul Crampton has and is building developments with mixed housing for empty nesters.

Crampton said he offers a variety of housing to give people more options and to broaden his customer base, but making a profit is a contributing factor in offering townhouses and single-family homes.

Empty-nester housing

More developments are going up that target empty-nesters who are looking for smaller homes and yards that don't require as much maintenance, developers said.

Valentine, who developed King's Crest with her husband, sold the last of 33 single-family lots for empty-nester and retiree housing off Robinwood Drive on April 15.

Crampton already built South Pointe with a mixture of single-family homes and townhouses. He is getting ready to start Emerald Pointe north of Hagerstown, that will have approximately 90 single-family homes, 92 townhouses and 89 duplexes, he said.

Crampton said about 90 percent of his home buyers were already county residents. They were looking for a scaled-down home that doesn't require as much yard work, he said.

"I know Hagerstown has become a mecca for retirement style living," said Mike Draper, Realtor for Century 21 MG Realty.

Draper said many people are moving from a big city to Washington County to retire because they can be within driving distance of their grown children, but live in an area that offers a lower cost of living and plenty of shopping opportunities.

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