Category Archives: New Construction

News and updates regarding new construction.

Review of Heritage Crossings – A New Community built at Former St. Jude Medical Center

For Placentia and Yorba Linda residents who were watching anxiously what would happen to the former site of the St. Jude Heritage Medical Center on Yorba Linda Blvd and Prospect, they finally got an answer when homebuilder D.R. Horton raised a banner almost a year ago advertising “New Townhomes” on the street corner.

Many Yorba Linda and Placentia residents visited their doctors here.
Many Yorba Linda and Placentia residents visited their doctors here.

Named after the former medical facility, “Heritage Crossings” is a community of 80 3-story townhomes that start with 2 bedrooms, 2.5 bath designs with 1,176 square feet all the way up to 3 bedrooms (plus den), 3.5 baths with 1,966 square feet.

Prices at the time of my visit started at $496,990.

All designs have modern kitchen layouts with plenty of counter space.
All designs have modern kitchen layouts with plenty of counter space.

Although many units will have 2 shared walls, the designs appeared to allow plenty of light inside
Although many units will have 2 shared walls, the designs appeared to allow plenty of light inside.

Homes on the north side of the complex have a view of distant Vista Del Verde.
Homes on the north side of the complex have a view of distant Vista Del Verde.

The Good….

Large, open layout of Residence 1923 (the largest plan) has a great room with line of sight to the large kitchen.
Large, open layout of Residence 1923 (the largest plan) has a great room with line of sight to the large kitchen.

The ground floor of Plan 1923 has a full bathroom and den. Perfect for an office, play room, home theater, game room, or 4th bedroom.
The ground floor of Plan 1923 has a full bathroom and den. Perfect for an office, play room, home theater, game room, or 4th bedroom.

The other angle of the ground level den.
The other angle of the ground level den.

D.R. Horton actually spared a space for a picnic area instead of building on every square inch.
D.R. Horton actually spared a space for a picnic area instead of building on every square inch.

Curb appeal is complex with balconies, front patios, and different styles for each building.
Curb appeal is complex with balconies, front patios, and different styles for each building.

 

The Bad…

Contrast to the detailed curb appeal, the garage alleys are reminiscent of what you'd find in an older apartment complex.
Contrast to the detailed curb appeal, the garage alleys are reminiscent of what you’d find in an older apartment complex.

When builders maximize profits, there's really no way getting around plenty of these. For families with babies, you'll be carrying the baby and other items up and down.
When builders maximize profits, there’s really no way getting around plenty of these. Since all floor plans have the garage on the ground floor and kitchen on the 2nd floor, look to haul groceries and possibly napping kids up and down these steps.

 

Questions? 

The Urban Flop? Will Mid-Rise condos EVER have a place in Orange County?

As a society, we’ve been trying to design housing to provide the best balance of proximity with open spaces and quiet. As a result, some far-fetched ideas never make it and some are built with lofty expectations.

Wild Concept: Disneyland's "House of the Future" was a wild idea that had many materials made of PLASTIC.
Wild Concept: Disneyland’s “House of the Future” was a wild idea that had many materials made of PLASTIC.

At the height of the housing boom of ’04-’06, investors were literally drowning in credit lines and cash and the housing market seemed like a no-brainer for growth. Since the new generation of buyers didn’t seem to mind about shrinking backyard spaces (or no backyard at all), builders started to think even bigger.

After being released in 2007, the "Stadium Lofts" in Anaheim had studio units starting at $400,000 with melo roos. The project sit directly across the corner from Angel's Stadium and a Metro / Amtrak Station.
After being released in 2007, the “Stadium Lofts” in Anaheim had studio units starting at $400,000 with melo roos. The project sits directly across the corner from Angel’s Stadium and a Metro / Amtrak Station.

IMG00670With successful rejuvenated Downtown areas like the Gaslamp District in San Diego gaining headlines, it became easier to pitch to investors that buyers have come full circle: Suburbs are out; downtown living is in. California freeways are getting slower and slower. Couples are getting married much later in life and having less kids or no kids at all.

Stadium Lofts opened with El Torito, Subway, and Kelly's as their tenants on the ground floor. While I don't know exactly what led to the retail locations closing, I do remember many occasions where the structure didn't have available parking. Angel fans found a way to park in the structure and have their tickets validated.
Stadium Lofts opened with El Torito, Subway, and Kelly’s as their tenants on the ground floor. While I don’t know exactly what led to the retail locations closing, I do remember many occasions where the structure didn’t have available parking. Angel fans found a way to park in the structure and have their tickets validated.

Private outdoor spaces give way to lavish common amenities such as exercise rooms, saunas, and pools.
Private outdoor spaces give way to lavish common amenities such as exercise rooms, saunas, and pools.

After all, everyone longs for living like the characters of “Friends” and “Seinfeld” where they’re only a short elevator ride away from bars, subway access and, shopping, right?

Well….sort of. There are many factors that made these mid-rise developments immediate flops. For starters, the lifestyle would not be like Seinfeld because most would still need to commute to just about everywhere. Public transportation in Southern California has always been very limited due to our love for cars and freeways. Socially, Orange County has been notorious for being “snobs” that don’t even know who lives next door. Forget about the idea of going downstairs to the local bar or hangout where “everyone knows your name.”

While the fancy marketing and amenities were enough to get crowds to the models, buyers knew the idea was a contradiction on many levels.

TOO MANY OPTIONS: During the housing slump of 2008-2010, a 2 bedroom condo like the one shown above can be bought for around $270,000. No melo roos and HOA dues were much cheaper.
TOO MANY OPTIONS: During the housing slump of 2008-2010, a 2 bedroom condo like the one shown above can be bought for around $270,000 in Anaheim Hills. The owner would enjoy the convenience of a direct access garage and a private patio area. No melo roos and HOA dues were much cheaper.

BIGGEST FLOP: "Astoria" in Irvine's "Central Park West" had lower floors available in the high 400s. After factoring melo roos and TWO HOAs, it was the equivalent monthly payment of buying a home near $700k.
BIGGEST FLOP: “Astoria” in Irvine’s “Central Park West” had lower floors available in the high 400s. After factoring melo roos and TWO HOAs, it was the equivalent monthly payment of buying a home near $700k. The building has since been converted to rental units.

 Going Urban 2.0

After the countless price reductions and conversions to rentals, builders were able to learn many lessons.

Brookfield’s “The Domain” community is directly across the street from The Packing District of Anaheim.

Since people love their cars in Southern California, most buyers prefer a private garage over underground terrace parking.
LESSONS LEARNED: The Domain has many units that have a direct access garage. Housing assistance is available through the City of Anaheim.

 

A sheik rooftop lounge is a great gathering place to entertain and look down on the rooftops of nearby buildings.
A sheik rooftop lounge is a great gathering place to entertain and look down on the rooftops of nearby buildings.

No project was impacted by the flop more than Anaheim’s “A-Town” project that was supposed to take cues from San Diego’s Petco Park.

MISSING THE MARK: Anaheim's "A-Town" has sat empty for almost 7 years. The project has since been scaled back to more of your cookie-cutter townhouse development.
MISSING THE MARK: Anaheim’s “A-Town” has sat empty for almost 7 years. The project has since been scaled back to more of your cookie-cutter townhouse development.

From the OC Register:

“Gone are the grandiose ideas to change Anaheim’s skyline with 11 high-rises, an urban village of 2,681 homes and 150,000 square feet of office and retail space near Angel Stadium….

Plans now call for building 1,400 to 1,742 condominiums and apartments, along with up to 50,000 square feet of shopping and office space grouped into eight neighborhoods spanning 43.1 acres, according to a revised development application submitted Thursday to the Anaheim Planning Department.”

After reading the article, most of the blame was placed on the housing market. I have a feeling the builders are in denial or just don’t get it.

Standard Pacific Opens “Avignon” Estate-Caliber Homes in Brea

As expected, home builder Standard Pacific’s marketing efforts drew large crowds to the their grand opening on May 17th.  Even temperatures in the 90s didn’t stop homebuyers from taking a peak while eating the complimentary snacks.

Guests had to park down the street after Avignon's small lot and curbs filled near the models.
Guests had to park down the street after Avignon’s small lot and curbs filled near the models.

My expectations of Avignon were thoughts of simply larger designs of Standard Pacific’s Montserrat community. Those were quickly exceeded when walking to their plan 3, which was first on their model tour.

Plan 3 courtyard entrance.
Plan 3 “Chagail” courtyard entrance.  Plan 3 is the first home to see when walking out of the sales office.

Plan 3 is the first home to see when walking out of the sales office. At an impressive 5,336+ square feet, entertaining spaces rival those of some banquet halls.
At an impressive 5,336+ square feet, entertaining spaces rival those of some banquet halls.

Designs are more immersive with arched entryways, grand entrances, and ground level master bedrooms available on some floor plans. Even to a Real Estate agent, it’s tough to distinguish standard features beyond the breathtaking decor that seems to have increased over the prior communities. Of course, none of those decorations and landscaping will come with the homes with exception of the very-expensive models which will be sold in the last phase.

The "California Room" gets more impressive as the tour continued. This one shown in the "Hayden" model (plan 1) has an arched covering.
The “California Room” gets more impressive as the tour continued. This one shown in the “Hayden” model (plan 1) has an arched covering.

The most impressive California Room is saved for last on the model tour. Plan 2 "Schubert" has an entire corner of the room disappear to expand the entertaining area.
The most impressive California Room is saved for last on the model tour. Plan 2 “Schubert” has an entire corner of the room disappear to expand the entertaining area.

The canyon view in the background is similar to what most homesites will see. A few lots will have a partial city lights view.
The canyon view in the background is similar to what most homesites will see. A few lots will have a partial city lights view.

Avignon will release their first phase of homes on May 24th.  Buyers will be required to sign up on a first-come, first-serve priority list.

Unlike Coral Ridge and Montserrat, unobstructed city lights view lots aren’t available due to the location of the community. It will be interesting how the international buyers (mostly Chinese) respond. Many I’ve spoke to have a “view or nothing” mentality. However, the far-superior designs might give buyers enough to compensate for the lack of a view.

 

Questions, details, and Pricing

REVIEW: The Domain by Brookfield Homes offers modern living and downpayment assistance

View condos currently for sale, latest info, nearby sights, and Edwin’s latest blogs on The Domain here.

The pool area sits south of the building -- plenty of California sun for residents.
The pool area sits south of the building — plenty of California sun for residents.

2014-04-23 12.30.12
Common areas include a BBQ area and fireplace next to the pool.

A few years ago, I got excited about Anaheim going through a transformation that would bring shopping and nightlife to neglected areas outside of the Disneyland Resort. There was promise of a downtown area “similar to the Gaslamp District” next to Angel Stadium. However, it seems all of the plans for the infamous “Platinum Triangle” have been put on hold indefinitely until builders and city officials decide what exactly will be built.

Meanwhile, the downtown area near Anaheim Blvd and Broadway is something that has transformed into a thriving promenade with little fanfare. Mid-rise modern apartments have been built next to chic-styled restaurants and Anaheim’s Civic Center.

“The Domain” by Brookfield Residential is the 2nd mid-rise property to be built in the area after Harbor Street Lofts were constructed in 2010.

Unlike the recent “urban flops” that were constructed (i.e. – Stadium Lofts on Katella and Harbor Street Lofts) where drastic price reductions were needed, the Domain seems poised to be a hit as the Real Estate market has improved and the location actually has several establishments worth visiting several times a week such as Farmer’s Market on Center Street, Umami Burger, and Anaheim Brewery. HOA dues are pretty reasonable for a mid-rise at $243 per month.

It's all about the LIFESTYLE -- page from Brookfield's Media Kit
It’s all about the LIFESTYLE — page from Brookfield’s Media Kit

Brookfield also seems to have learned from the shortcomings of nearby complexes in order to cater to groups beyond just “20 somethings.” Unlike the Stadium Lofts, The Domain features select residences with direct access garages.

Some garages are larger than what you'd find in most homes! This one is a full 2-car garage with a "storage" area in the front that can be used for an exercise room or small 3rd car.
Some garages are larger than what you’d find in most homes! This one is a full 2-car garage with a “storage” area in the front that can be used for an exercise room or small 3rd car.

Home designs are as small as 1 bedroom, 1 bath with 897 square feet  and can be large as 3 bedrooms, 2 baths with 1,644 square feet with an attached 2-car garage.

A sheik rooftop lounge is a great gathering place to entertain and look down on the rooftops of nearby buildings.
A sheik rooftop lounge is a great gathering place to entertain and look down on the rooftops of nearby buildings.

Modern kitchen designs and well-appointed layouts creates separation and mood for each area.
Modern kitchen designs and well-appointed layouts creates separation and mood for each area.

Plan 4 (started at $410,370 during the time) has the largest corner balcony of all floor plans.
Plan 4 (started at $410,370 during the time) has the largest corner balcony of all floor plans.

LINE OF SIGHT: Although Plan 4Y is only 1,283 square feet, the distance from the master bedroom to the opposite wall seems like a football field!
LINE OF SIGHT: Although Plan 4Y is only 1,283 square feet, the distance from the master bedroom to the opposite wall seems like a football field!

Here’s more good news: There will be a significant number of “Plan B” residences (2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1,103 sq ft) classified as “affordable” units where downpayment assistance will be available. The program is also available toward other designs as long as funding remains. There has been $6M set aside for the program.

Similar to nearby Colony Park, buyers with lower household incomes are eligible to use Anaheim’s Housing Program to assist them in obtaining homeownership. The program offers up to $125,000 in downpayment assistance.

Here are some of the requirements of the program:

– Income limits are based on household size. For example, a household of 2 cannot earn more than $83,700 (using the moderate income table).

– Buyers cannot own more than $92,000 in cash assets.

– All persons in household must provide proof of permanent US residency.

– Applicants must complete HUD’s Certified Homebuyer Education Program.

Call me at 714-501-2732 for more information or use the form in the “Contact Edwin” link above.

 

Avignon by Standard Pacific to host grand opening May 17th in Brea

In a prior blog, I mentioned that Standard Pacific will be opening a new luxury community in the Blackstone Community of Brea called “Avignon”.

For those who have been keeping up with Blackstone’s development, expect homes to be similar in lot size to the Castillian community sold 2 years ago. Living sizes will be slightly larger and exterior facades will be more extravagant.

Expect canyon views similar to this one from an earlier community built by Standard Pacific called "Castillian".
Expect canyon views similar to this one from an earlier community built by Standard Pacific called “Castillian”.

Expect homes to be sold in "Phase releases" similar to this one shown. Buyers will be required to join a priority list.
Homes will be sold in “Phase releases” similar to this one shown. Buyers will be required to join a priority list.

The Grand Opening will take place on May 17th and starts at 10 AM.   Prices will start in the low $1,000,000s and have living spaces up to 5,485 square feet. Most lots will have canyon or hillside views. A few homes will have city lights views and are expected to be priced near $1.8M.

If you’re seriously considering a brand new luxury home, you’ll want to review how this community stacks up against other homes in the area.  Next, you’ll want the assistance of an agent familiar with the area. The agent will assist you in obtaining a position on the builder’s priority list so you can purchase the most desired lots.

If you need to sell an existing home in order to buy, it would be a good idea to review your options.

Want more information or have questions regarding this community?

 

What exactly is “Mello Roos”? How much is it in Blackstone and La Floresta in Brea?

Will Melo Roos stop you from buying?
Will Melo Roos stop you from buying?

Before we get into what Mello Roos is, let’s look at some of the amounts published by builders in Blackstone and La Floresta in Brea:

Emerald Heights by Shea Homes: $976.43 for Plan 2 & 3; $1,226.43 for Plan 4

Coral Ridge by Shea Homes: $1,226 for Plan 1 & 2; $1,412.76 for plan 3

Paseo by Standard Pacific Homes: Amount not published. The brochure states “approximately 1.13%.” I estimate the amount  to be about $728 when working backwards form the sales prices and likely will be higher or lower depending on floor plan purchased.

Ventanas by Van Daele: Approximately $800 depending on homesite

Avenida by Standard Pacific Homes: $800 per year depending on homesite

What exactly is Mello Roos?

The term itself comes from The Community Facilities Act of in 1982 authored by Senator Henry J. Mello and Assemblyman Mike Roos. The Act created “CFDs”, or Community Facilities Districts which are established by local government agencies to raise community funding.

In other words, it’s a way for a builder to finance the infrastructure needed to create a new development. This is commonly done through selling bonds. The duration of the Mello Roos depends on the life of the bond. In some areas of Placentia near Champions Sports Complex, the bonds were for 15 years.

Sample tax bill from a residence in "Stadium Lofts" in Anaheim
Sample tax bill from a residence in “Stadium Lofts” in Anaheim

From the tax bill above, you’ll see the “basic levy rate” of 1%. In California, this is the base tax rate for a property. North Orange County cities are typically about 1.03% to about $1.15% in communities that “don’t have Mello-Roos.” In Real Estate lingo,  while it’s not technically correct, having Mello Roos is any amount significantly above that range. In the bill above, you can see that CFD’s are inline with normal bonds.

However, there’s a line item only described as “other services” for an additional $2053.44! This amount is not technically “Mello Roos” per the definition above.

Confused?

That was intentional. Don’t worry — you don’t have to be an expert on Mello Roos when buying a home. (However, your Real Estate agent and CPA should know the difference.) What’s important is to know is if the total tax exceeds the normal rate in the area. Once it does, sales data shows it will affect the sales price of a home. Since it boils down to monthly payment for most buyers, the effect is similar to HOA dues.

So, next time you want to irritate your friends on the subject or Real Estate and someone asks, “How much is the Mello Roos in that community?” You should answer, “The question you should be asking is: How much are the additional bonds and assessments above the base tax rate?

Is the Affordability Index becoming less relevant in an International Market?

Even in communities that were predominately white in North Orange County, Asian buyers have been increasing.
Even in communities that were predominately white in North Orange County, Asian buyers have been increasing.

As mentioned on several of my prior blogs, Chinese buyers for North Orange County continue to dominate new construction and the high end market.

During the boom of 2003-2006, subprime lending fueled bidding wars as home prices reached levels where it was impossible to afford a nice home on a 30 year fixed mortgage — unless you were a Doctor, Lawyer or Executive of a company.

This time around, low interest rates, former homeowners who had a foreclosure or short sale seeking to purchase, low inventory, and increasing international buyers are pushing prices upward without an end in sight.

Before subprime and International Buyers, prices had to be inline with local wages.

With International Buyers continuing to purchase, is the Affordability Index becoming less relevant?

As international buyers flood the market, do we need an international affordability index?
As international buyers flood the market, do we need an international affordability index?

Here are a few significant stats from the Bloomberg Report below:

– The amount of millionaires in China have more than DOUBLED since 2008

– 60% of Chinese with $1.6M or more in assets are in process or considering emigration with the #1 destination (40%) being the U.S.

– Reasons for emigration: Children’s Education 58%, Wealth Safety 43%, Retirement 32%

– According to the Department of Homeland Security, Chinese ranked 2nd to Mexicans for receiving legal, permanent residency.

Recently, I observed a builder’s release at Coral Ridge in Blackstone. My client and I realized that the prices had gone up almost $200,000 from the last release. Almost everyone in the room were Chinese and eyeing one lot that sold for almost $1.6M.

A crowd gathers for Shea's release for Coral Ridge.
A crowd gathers for Shea’s release for Coral Ridge.

 

Standard Pacific Homes to open “Avignon” Community in Blackstone Community of Brea

Photo from Standard Pacific's Castillian Plan 3. Builder representatives have dubbed Avignon "Castillian on steroids"
Photo from Standard Pacific’s Castillian Plan 3. Builder representatives have dubbed Avignon “Castillian on steroids”

As luxury homes in Blackstone’s Coral Ridge continues to sell like hot cakes, Standard Pacific homes is looking to offer another luxury product to fill the void left by the build out of Montserrat.

When I first received word about this community that will be North-West of the communities named above, a representative from Standard Pacific described the new development as “Castilian on Steriods.”

Avignon will feature 93 homes with floor plans from 4,570 to 5,485 square feet. Full backyards and some with canyon and city views are expected.

Expect California rooms and panoramic doors.
Expect California rooms and panoramic doors.

Just like the other luxury homes in Blackstone that were recently sold, expect outdoor living spaces optimized through “California Rooms” and Panoramic Doors. 

I’m just guessing here, but I think prices will start at $1.65M for a view home. Non-view homes likely about $1.3M.

A builder trailer and sales office may be built as soon as early April. Stay tuned.

Placing the builder’s “Priority List” in perspective

Do you have a chance of buying a new home when the list is over double digits?
Do you have a chance of buying a new home when the list is over double digits?

After meeting with an agent, comparing other available new homes, viewing the models, and getting pre-approved, you decide you want to purchase a home in a new community.

Then you discover there are 30 people on the list ahead of you.

Should you move on? Or figure it’s worth a shot?

Here are few questions to ask in order to know if you should proceed:

1. When did the list start? I just visited the sales office of Paseo at La Floresta and someone “in the know” informed me that there are over 130 people on the list. However, we both agreed that with the list over 1 year old, there are many that have either found another home to purchase or no longer interested.

2. How many are on the list? It’s tough to get a straight answer if you’re a prospective buyer. The sales reps might be trained to not disclose this information due to the risk of scaring away a buyer. On the other end of the spectrum, disclosing a low number might make a buyer suspicious of the current pricing. From my experience, the builder’s representatives are more willing to give this information to agents.

3. Are you flexible on floor plan and lot location? Many buyers forget that if you’re eyeing the corner lot with a panoramic view, it’s likely the buyers on the list will be hot after it, too.  Having flexibility will increase your chances tremendously.

4. How much have prices changed since the prior release? Now we’re entering forecast territory. If prices have risen significantly (and you still can afford it), it may eliminate some of your competition.

Even if the questions above are not looking good in your favor, you’d be surprised how many on the list are “market watchers.” In other words, they went through all the hassle of getting pre-approved only to “defer” their home choice to the next phase.

During Coral Ridge’s last phase release in Blackstone, there were over 30 people in the room and 3 homes remained unsold.

ARE YOU FLEXIBLE? During Shea's release, 2 view homes were snatched up and 3 non-view homes remained on the board.
ARE YOU FLEXIBLE? During Shea’s release, 2 view homes were snatched up and 3 non-view homes remained on the board. Homesite #36 was a corner lot with more square footage and a panoramic view.

 

Compare new homes in North Orange County side-by-side

Instead of driving around and getting confused, start with this guide FIRST!
Instead of driving around and getting confused, start with this guide FIRST!

With every visit to each builder office, you hope to collect floor plans, community information, and pricing with the hopes of staying focused. Often, you’ll arrive home confused and not knowing what just happened.

Why not start with a plan?

This guide compares square footage, schools, prices, location, HOA dues, and even addresses to the sale offices. Included in the report are the following communities:

Serrano in Blackstone

Coral Ridge in Blackstone

Emerald Heights in Blackstone

Avenida in La Floresta

Paseo in La Floresta

Ventanas in La Floresta

Compass Walk in Placentia

Summerwind in Brea

Cortile in Colony Park

Casita in Colony Park

Cortese in Amalfi Hills

Palisades in Vista Del Verde

 

Report will be emailed to you within 24 hours.