Ryland Homes soon will conduct grand openings of new model homes in four communities during a four-week period.
One of those new communities -- Andare at Talamore in Huntley -- is an active-adult community within a much larger Ryland master planned community. The other three communities -- Ingham Park in Aurora, The Fields of Shorewood and Ashton Pointe, both in Crystal Lake -- are all subdivisions that were developed and begun by other builders who were hit hard during the housing downturn and could no longer continue to build.
Ryland is riding to the rescue of existing homeowners and the municipalities where those once stalled subdivisions are located. They are bringing in new models to jump-start the communities and get people buying again.
"It gives me a good feeling to go in and talk to village professionals to see what it would take to start up a subdivision again," said John Carroll, division president for Ryland.
"It feels good to help revive a neighborhood that has been sitting idle," he said. "The residents are happy to have active construction again, which adds value to their existing homes, and the municipality benefits because the subdivision is once again being taken care of, the municipal inspectors are working again and new taxpayers are moving into town."
Andare at Talamore in Huntley
For the first time in many years, Ryland is opening an active-adult community as part of their ongoing Talamore master planned community in Huntley. It is called Andare.
"The active-adult market will continue to remain strong in the Chicago area for years to come. So we took an area of Talamore that had been planned as townhouses and converted it to an active-adult single-family home community," Carroll said.
Active adults recognize the value inherent in today's housing market, understanding that while they may not be able to sell their existing home at as high a price as they could have a few years ago, they can also purchase a new home at a historically low price. So they will make up on their new home any losses they may have had on their previous home.
"This age group tends to have the most significant equity in their homes and the most flexibility in their selling price," Carroll said.
The 78 ranch-style homes in Andare all offer optional basements, sunrooms and extended garages and all landscaping and snow removal work is handled by the homeowners association. Residents of Andare will share the large Talamore clubhouse, along with all of its facilities and programming, with the larger Talamore non-age-restricted community. It includes an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, Olympic-sized swimming pool, waterslide, kiddie pool, spray-and-play area and an 18-foot water slide. Other amenities include a stocked fishing pond and an outdoor pavilion with a fireplace and picnic tables.
So while their small area of the community will not have children living in it, residents of Andare will see children and families at the clubhouse and in the larger community. They can bring their grandchildren to the pool and generally find other children there who are willing to play.
"We are getting lots of positive feedback on this," Carroll said. "They like the idea that the community is not entirely devoid of children."
Ingham Park in Aurora
Located in the west Aurora planning area, Ingham Park is a rural-style subdivision with flat ribbon curbs and no public sidewalks. There is lots of open space, giving the subdivision the feel of a larger acreage, custom-home community, Carroll said.
"All of the lots back up to open space and most range from 10,000 to 12,000 square feet, while the homes on them will range from 2,257 to 3,800 square feet," he said. "All of them are two-story homes which sell, on average, in the high $200,000s. The base prices, however, range from $224,990 to $306,990."
The first phase of this community will feature 42 homes. It has garnered lots of attention from local move-up buyers thanks to its proximity to I-88, Carroll said.
Fields of Shorewood
Eight homes in this more traditional neighborhood in Shorewood were sold before the models even opened. So the neighborhood has been exceedingly well-received, Carroll said.
Seventy-four two-story and tri-level homes with base prices ranging from $206,990 to $254,990 will be built in this restart community. The models range in size from 2,282 to 3,152 square feet.
Ashton Pointe in Crystal Lake
There is a commuter component to Ashton Pointe. This traditional neighborhood of primarily two-story homes is located adjacent to the Crystal Lake Metra station, so residents can walk to the train via a dedicated path.
Another restart community, Ashton Pointe features homes ranging in size from 2,405 to 3,800 square feet with base prices of $245,990 to $335,990. It is expected to be popular with the move-up market.
Ryland Homes is also building ten other communities around the Chicago area in municipalities like Montgomery, Round Lake, Gilberts, Volo, Hampshire and Bolingbrook.
"I have been in the home-building industry my whole life so I am familiar with the trends," Carroll said. "I know that communities that have historically been strong for home sales will continue to be strong because their schools and location are good. So those are the communities we are interested in investing in."
If a particular area was popular during the good times, it will be popular again, but the volumes sold and the prices will just be less, he added.
"There were many more builders in the Chicago market five or six years ago than there are today and many of them had started subdivisions that they were unable to complete. The remaining builders are slowly working through those communities, buying them, restarting them and completing them, but that will take time," Carroll said.
What is the market like today?
"Homebuyers have always been very savvy, but the Internet makes information so easy to obtain that they are even savvier today. They know what they are looking for and they know its value and that does not always mean the same thing as price.
"People aren't real willing to pay for fluff right now, but the adage of 'location, location, location' being the most important thing remains true. People will pay for location."
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the building business?
"People today want the same things in their house, but they don't want to pay for as much square footage. So we are building smaller and more efficient, cost-effective homes."
By doing that, Ryland is able to remain very competitive with older homes on the local resale markets.
"We tell prospective buyers that today you have to pay a very low premium to get much more for your money -- an entirely new, energy-efficient home with a ten-year warranty and all new stuff.
"We don't even try to compete with the short sale and foreclosure markets People who are willing to spend months arguing with banks in order to maybe get 'the deal that no one else can get' are not our buyers anyway."
What are your future plans for Ryland's Chicago division?
In 2012, Ryland Homes sold 324 homes and closed nearly 300 of them. This year it expects to sell more than 400 houses.
Going forward, the company expects to build more active-adult communities within larger master planned communities, and they also plan to look at more infill communities.
"We feel that there will be a solid market for new homes in the Chicago area for many years to come. Even a half percent in job growth translates into a lot of new jobs in a market as large as Chicago. In fact, we raised our prices on Jan. 1 and plan to continue to raise them. To me, that is a clear signal that the market is strengthening again."
For more information on Ryland Homes, visit www.ryland.com.