Ready buyers, strong demand for new homes and restored consumer confidence add up to good news for area homebuilders as they begin to develop land and open new communities.
"We have a strong demand in the market and a very limited supply of good homes in good locations," said Lance Ramella, senior vice president with John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
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"In suburban Chicago, communities in good locations are selling very well. Sales are strong in smaller infill locations, and communities are selling very well in DuPage County, south Lake (County), pockets of Cook (County) and closer-in parts of Kane (County) in the Tri-Cities area.
"It's a cyclical market with 'going back to school' a slow time. It will pick up in late September and October and then slow down until spring," Ramella said.
William Ryan Homes has experienced an increase in buyers' confidence, said Debbie Beaver, vice president of operations for the Chicago division of the homebuilder. "We have doubled in size from last year, and next year we will almost double in size again, adding five more communities by February. We're pretty excited about it."
The builder is developing communities in Lakemoor, Hawthorn Woods and Romeoville with the new Hampshire Highlands coming soon. The Hampshire designs offer the flexibility and livability that today's homebuyers want, she said.
The company also has several active communities including Highland Woods and Kainer Court in Barrington.
"Since the downturn in the real estate market, people have been in the same home, and they're outgrowing their spaces. People are getting married, having kids, retiring. They're feeling good enough now that they're considering making a change in their lives," Beaver said.
Cheryl Bonk, vice president of sales and marketing for M/I Homes of Chicago, agrees that there is pent-up demand.
"Many people that have been sitting on the sidelines are now in a position to buy again. They're selling their smaller home or townhouse and want to move up into a bigger home before the market increases."
M/I Homes is moving and shaking with several recent grand openings, the latest at Stableford in Willowbrook with 22 homesites. The model home there showcasing the Everette floor plan.
This is a sensible, smart design with an open flow and flexibility. Homes are surrounded by wooded and preserve views, Bonk said.
"We've been very successful with our townhouse communities. Now we're excited about expanding our portfolio of single-family homes.
"Also, we will begin pre-sales in October at a master-planned community in Lemont with ranch and two-story plans. Homes have a wide price range for first-time buyers, move-up buyers and the downsize buyer," she said.
Sales are looking up for Toll Brothers, which has seen the pace of sales increase dramatically since the Parker model for its newer Fairways Collection opened at the end of May.
"The model shows beautifully and has absolutely drawn traffic," said Nicole Bastian-Gardiner, senior sales manager for Toll Brothers. "People like that it's designed with a lot of standards without a lot of expensive upgrades.
"In the basement, we show an actual hockey rink with a Blackhawks theme. It's unique with lights flashing and sounds just like you're at the game. This has been a big hit."
The Toll Brothers' Bowes Creek Country Club development features a country club lifestyle without the fees and is Elgin's only new-home community on a public golf course. In the center of the community, the impressive clubhouse offers a restaurant and pub.
The market is also faring well at KLM Builders, a custom and semi-custom builder in McHenry County. Although the builder is looking to expand into another community right now, they're doing more and more design-and-build projects.
"Either people have their own land or they bought a lot five years ago, and now they're ready to build their dream home," said Kim Meier, president of KLM Builders.
"We've got homes going up in Wauconda and Lake Zurich, and we're going to start one in Johnsburg. Also, we demolished a home that burned down in Lake Villa, and we're building a new home for the owners.
"We're a one-stop shop," Meier said. "We have two architectural draftsmen on staff. People can come to us, and we do it all -- design and build from scratch. They don't need to find an architect, builder and cabinet company.
"This part of the market is picking up."
Shodeen Homes is a major player in the market as it gets ready to open a townhouse community in downtown Geneva, which is in its final approval stage.
The builder is in the initial presale phase at Elburn Station, a huge development of more than 2,000 residences that will include a pedestrian bridge over the tracks along with some commercial development. Shodeen is also expanding in Blackberry Creek, also in Elburn.
"We want to get these open because we're seeing stronger demand now in the market," said Nathan Amidon, representing Shodeen as division manager for New Home Star Illinois.
Also, sales are picking up at Reston Ponds, a single-family home community in Sycamore on 193 acres with six ponds and 15 acres of park space.
Mill Creek is another active community by Shodeen, modeled after a traditional country town where everything residents need is within walking distance. The community offers several types of housing options including condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes with entry level, semi-custom and custom homes.
The community features more than 650 acres with 45 percent of the land open to nature and recreation.
Shodeen Homes is also staying ahead of the game by building several move-in-ready homes that give people a wide range of homes to choose from at Mill Creek.
"A big strategy for Shodeen is to always have homes available for occupancy and to show people just about every different floor plan we build," Amidon said.
The time to buy a new home is now, these builders say.
This is the ideal time to open the door to a new home while the market is coming back, (but) before it's back in full swing, Beaver said.
"When that happens costs will rise," she said. "It's a great opportunity now with new products and land while the market is still on the rise."