Real Estate

Good Surprises

Sometimes, ironically, it’s the good news that surprises us. At least that’s how the folks at Heritage Wake Forest felt when they realized the first eight months of 2011 outsold all of 2010.And Van Fletcher, Broker/Realtor with The Allen Tate Company, expects to write 16 contracts this year in The Oaks at Fallon Park, compared to nine last year.This good news runs counter to the doom-and-gloom reports in the media, so the questions beg to be asked: Why? What does it take to make a sale these days?There are several important things that attract buyers. “The product is right in price, design, feel and detail,” says Fletcher. “With Fallon Park, my buyers sensed it was an authentic community.”Andy Ammons, president of Ammons Development Group, developer of Heritage Wake Forest, agrees. “I think we’re a true community,” he says, adding potential buyers often comment on people out jogging or pushing strollers. “The best part about it is, I don’t think it’s over. I think it’s only the tip of the iceberg. We seem to have a lot of momentum right now. We just finished July, and it was the best July ever since we opened 10 years ago.”

Secrets to successAmmons says his group has been funneling money into marketing consistently since the downturn of the market, fueling its website and investing in social marketing. “People really want to see what’s out there instantly. They’re not comfortable waiting three or four hours,” he says, noting many buyers have a house picked out before they even walk into the sales office. “We’ve always been on the front end of that trend. Sometimes you think you spend more than you should, but it pays off.”Mark Ward, vice president of sales at ForeverHome, the builder of Fallon Park’s luxury villas, says pricing plays a large role in the uptick of sales. “We think a key factor in our success is the opportunity the Villas are providing to live in this amazing part of Raleigh in wonderful homes from the $360,000s as opposed to the higher pricing traditionally seen in this area.”

From Chicago to N.C.All of the above enticed Jim and Debbie Sinay to buy in Heritage in May. The retired couple, 62 and 59, respectively, built a 2,300-square-foot home on a greenway lot in Heritage Valley.“We especially liked Heritage because it is so well maintained, has a good reputation, is vibrant and has so much to offer with shopping, golfing and being close to everything,” says Debbie.The Sinays moved from downtown Chicago, where they’d already sold their home, so that didn’t stand in their way of making a decision once they got to North Carolina. “We were fortunate enough to have sold our one bedroom condo in Chicago at a loss because we had remodeled the kitchen and bath and added a lot of storage. There were more than 300 one-bedroom condos on the market in just our immediate area of the city at the time we listed ours.”You don’t often hear the words “fortunate” and “loss” in the same sentence, but that’s the way the market is these days. Selling resales is tough everywhere. Ammons agrees.“The problem we have as far as completing some sales is that people can’t sell their existing homes somewhere else so they can move. We don’t have any starter home opportunities out here so nearly all of our residents need to sell a home somewhere else.”

Voting to ‘dig in’After selling for a loss in Chicago, the Sinays obviously wanted to be careful about where they made their next real estate investment.“Despite all the difficulties in the housing market the last three years throughout the country, Heritage remains vibrant,” says Debbie Sinay. “The community is very well laid-out and the landscaping in the common areas is well-maintained and always beautiful. We feel confident that the value of homes in Heritage will maintain and ultimately increase in value.”That’s the kind of testimonial that makes Ammons want to sing from the rooftops.“We had some hard discussions at the end of ’08 and said ‘What are we going to do?” Ammons remembers. “And we all voted to dig in, roll up our sleeves and work a little harder. We put more effort into marketing, put more effort into getting the financing for the builders of the homes. We kept things out here fresh, made the landscaping better. It pays off. People can see it even though they can’t always put their finger on what it is.”When buyers are confident, everybody wins. “The builders and bankers are happy they can build something and stay in business out here,” says Ammons. “The bankers can get the builders money; the builder can build a nice house and the realtor feels comfortable selling it. The whole process, we’ve built confidence into it every step of the way.”

Old and newFallon Park buyers are interested in living in a brand-new home inside-the-beltline, and developers have done a good job of blending old and new. The garages at the Villas and Cottages are ally-fed and exteriors feature shake, stone, brick and fiber cement, all with Craftsman-style elements. The difference is that inside buyers have kitchens of granite and steel and yard maintenance is included in the price.“My buyers love having a new home that is custom because it’s easy, low maintenance and is already infused with character,” says Fletcher. “It’s woven into the fabric of wonderful, established neighborhoods—Anderson Heights, White Oak, Five Points and Hayes Barton.”And the news just keeps getting better.Heritage opened two new sections, Heritage Valley and Heritage Orchard, earlier than planned. Forty lots sold recently. “When the builders are buying them at that rate and putting them up and people are buying them . . . our biggest problem from a business perspective is we don’t have enough inventory to show to people,” says Ammons.That’s a good problem to have.