November 29, 2011

Bridal registry item: new home

Add new homes to the list of gifts you can register for as you're planning a wedding.

Greenbelt-based Bozzuto Homes announced yesterday that it has launched a bridal registry to allow friends and relatives of engaged couples to contribute to their down payment. The company says it will match up to $15,000, with its contribution going to closing costs.

The first couple that signed up is buying a home in Ellicott City.

Homebuilders appear to be moving in this direction across the country. 1-800-Registry says it is partnering with more than 500 builders on its new "home registry" program. And Bozzuto said it decided to pursue its own registry after seeing a demonstration at a builders' show.

"We thought this would be a good idea," said Bruce Rosenblatt, Bozzuto's director of sales.

Continue reading "Bridal registry item: new home" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Homebuilding

May 31, 2011

Right-sizing the house

Size matters when it comes to the cost of housing. More space means forking over more money, both for energy and for the rent or mortgage.

The constraints imposed by the housing bust/financial crisis/recession trifecta put downward pressure on the ever-expanding size of new houses. After increasing in floor area by more than 40 percent between 1980 and 2007, the typical newly built single-family house in the U.S. shrunk 6 percent over the next two recessionary years, according to the most recent Census Bureau data.

But that's a minor change, not a major one. At 2,135 square feet, the typical single-family home built in 2009 was still substantially larger than the 1,595-square-foot new homes people were buying a generation earlier.

It's not just homes for sale. Apartment units have also gotten bigger over the years. Thirty-four percent of U.S. units built in 2007 were 1,200 square feet or larger, compared with 21 percent in 1999. (Those were the most recent and oldest years available from this Census Bureau report.)

Do we really need that extra space?

Extra amenities inside homes and outside, in the development or apartment complex, drive up costs, too. When I wrote about high-end rental amenities in the region earlier this year, Wonk reader BB noted that average complexes have felt the need to spruce up -- and then raised the rents.

"Many of the $650-750 apartments are now asking $800-900+. They ALL were boasting 'new' kitchens, and a free LCD wall mount tv in the living room," BB wrote. "There was nothing wrong with the old kitchens, and I do not need a TV - Can I go back to paying $700 a month please? To me this is a major disincentive that is just driving up the cost."

I'm curious whether the new (or newly renovated) homes and apartments in the region fit your idea of the right balance between quantity, quality and affordability. Would you do something entirely different if you were in charge? Or is everything peachy?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Affordable housing, Homebuilding, Renting

July 9, 2010

Homebuilder optimism

For a time of uncertainty, newly expired homebuyer tax credits and less-than-wonderful economic news, homebuilders are feeling surprisingly optimistic.

Here and nationwide, they're aggressively buying up land. Permits for new homes are rising, too -- up 70 percent in the first four months of the year in the Baltimore metro area, compared with a year earlier. (Not enough to get back to boomtime numbers, of course, but it's a definite reversal after years of sharp pullback.)

More here, in case you missed this week's story on the topic.

Here are interesting tidbits from analyst Kenneth Wenhold that didn't make it into the article:

Continue reading "Homebuilder optimism " »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Homebuilding

July 7, 2010

Refunds for clients of defunct homebuilder

Did you pay a deposit to Equity Homes and then get neither the home built nor your money back? The state attorney general's office now has $460,000 from the homebuilder's bonding company in order to make refunds to consumers.

Virginia-based Equity, which was building in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, closed in 2008.

Contact the Consumer Protection Division at 410-576-6569 by Sept. 10 if you believe you're due a refund and have not already talked with officials there. 

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Homebuilding

July 2, 2009

Instead of new homes, these folks got heartache

If you put down a deposit on a new home, you expect to get a new home. But whenever you hand over a chunk of change for something in return down the road, there's always an opportunity for something to go horribly wrong.

Example one: 

Two business-partner siblings who registered a homebuilding company with the state near the beginning of the housing boom pleaded guilty this week to misusing deposits from 22 couples and individuals. I reported the story for today's paper -- you can read more about it here, but here's a taste:

Walter Osborne Ely Jr. and Kimberly Zahrey started JAE Developers in 2002 and collected between $1,000 and $50,000 in upfront payments from prospective home buyers, according to Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler's statement of fact submitted to Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Vicki Ballou-Watts. Instead of putting the money in escrow accounts as required, the two quickly spent it. Some of the money went to business expenses that had nothing to do with building the customers' homes, the state said. Some of it Ely and Zahrey spent on themselves, the state said.

Meanwhile -- example two -- the state attorney general announced Wednesday that a Garrett County homebuilder also failed to build homes for several customers or return their money.

This comes on the heels of Lorraine Mirabella's stories about Altieri Homes, which the state has charged with "failing to start or finish construction of at least 20 homes in Harford and Howard counties after taking deposits and payments." Owner Greig Altieri said in a story last month that the tough economy put him out of business.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:49 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Homebuilding
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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
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