RENEWED demand for attached houses in condominium developments that offer shared recreational facilities and maintenance-free living is bringing increasing numbers of these developments on the market. Developers say that sales of such housing are being stoked both by young couples who want to own and build equity without the worries of such chores as snow removal and mowing the lawn and by empty nesters selling existing houses.
“The market for town houses has come roaring back,” said Steven A. Klar, an East Meadow developer. Since opening sales in October on 37 three-bedroom attached houses in a Smithtown development called Hidden Ponds, he has sold all but five at prices ranging from $210,000 to $238,000, he said. In a strong resale market, older homeowners are now easily able to sell their houses, he noted, “and they’re saying to themselves, ‘I no longer want to maintain a home, but I still want to own something.’ “When the recession hit, people chose the detached homes,” said Ira J. Adler, a partner of the Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman law firm in East Meadow. Now that the housing market is booming, he added, his firm is shepherding several dozen proposals for attached houses through the approvals process.
Michael Dubb and Leslie A. Lerner, the principals of the Beechwood Organization, a Jericho developer, will not open sales at a 194-unit condominium project called Country Pointe at Smithtown until the end of the month. But 400 potential buyers have already put their names on a waiting list, said Mr. Dubb, alerted by a sign on the 35-acre property, which is situated on Route 347 and Middle Country Road. In the 80’s, attached units attracted many speculators who walked away from them when the real estate market soured, Mr. Dubb said, adding that that “created a real negative backlash as far as bank financing was concerned. But those days are over,” he said. “Town homes are now being bought almost exclusively by users and it’s become just another form of housing that banks have no problem financing.”
Designed by Axelrod & Cherveny, the units at Country Pointe will have four different layouts. Buyers can elect to have a master bedroom on the ground floor. A more traditional house will have all three bedrooms on the upper floor. And two-bedroom simplexes in two-story town house-style buildings will also be available. “When I build single-family homes, I am usually appealing to one market, and that’s parents with children, ” Mr. Dubb said. “When I build town homes, I can appeal to everyone from young families just starting out to single people who have determined that they can own for the price of renting.” Prices at Country Pointe will start at $175,000 for the 1,300-square-foot, two-bedroom simplex and will go to $255,000 for a 2,200-square-foot town house with a downstairs master bedroom. The development will have a pool, two tennis courts, a clubhouse, a manned gatehouse, a basketball court and a playground.
With the exception of a condominium development in Port Jefferson called the Highlands, which it took over after a previous developer failed, the Park Ridge Organization of Ronkonkoma has been building only detached houses in recent years. Now it plans to open an 88-unit town-house development in Smithtown called Tiffany Park in the fall. “What changed our minds is demand,” said Kim Mancini, the company’s marketing director. Prices at Tiffany Park, where town houses will range in size from 1,800 to 2,100 square feet will average $250,000, Ms. Mancini said. The units, which are the design of Caradonna and Dirr, will all have master bedrooms on the ground floor. The development will have a pool, a clubhouse with a fitness center and possibly a tennis court.
For many buyers, the question has become not whether to buy an attached house, but where to find one, since attached housing usually has to go through an arduous approvals process. “It’s really a case-by-case situation because some sites are simply not suited for attached housing,” said Richard I. Scheyer, a Smithtown lawyer who is chairman of Islip’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Neighbors often oppose attached housing, fearing more traffic and a greater impact on schools because of the higher density, he said. “The approvals process is brutal,” said Nicholas Cassis, a Baldwin developer who, with partners, is building a 176-unit condominium called the Ranches at Long Lakes Estates on 32 acres in Port Jefferson Station. The property originally was zoned for detached houses on half an acre. “It took me almost 10 years to get it rezoned,” Mr. Cassis said. However, he said, since sales finally began last May, he has placed 56 of the units under contract and taken 15 binders.
The Ranches development, which was also designed by Axelrod & Cherveny, illustrates another increasingly popular trend in attached housing — a one-level dwelling, rather than one with two floors. Only 36 of the 176 units are in two-story buildings. The Town of Brookhaven, of which Port Jefferson Station is a part, required the builders to set 10 percent of the project aside for moderate-income first-time buyers. Consequently, 18 one-bedroom simplex apartments on the upper floors of 18 two-story buildings are priced at $99,990. The 18 simplexes on the ground floors, which have basements, sell for $140,000. Both simplexes are around 920 square feet in size. Prices for the ranch-style units start at $190,000 for a 1,116-square-foot two-bedroom and go up to $239,990 for one with 1,455 square feet and an eat-in kitchen. Buyers want storage space, Mr. Cassis said, so he is including basements. The Ranches development will have a pool, a clubhouse, tennis and basketball courts and a manned gatehouse.
Marguerite Franco and her parents, Anthony and Frances Franco, who are purchasing one of the larger ranch units, represent buyers at both ends of the age spectrum. The Francos are selling their four-bedroom colonial in Dix Hills to move to the Port Jefferson Station development “because it will be better for my parents,” said Ms. Franco, who works as a secretary for a Syosset law firm. Her mother is 81, and her father is close to 80, she said. “So I just felt it will be a nice environment both for them and for me,” she explained. “It will give them a lift to go to the clubhouse and the pool, and they will be able to socialize more because there will be neighbors all around them.” Among new projects already on the market or in the planning stages are developments approved years ago before the market for town houses soured, and now are once again viable.
Mr. Klar, the East Meadow developer, said he expected to open the second section of a 142-unit town-house development by late summer. The two- to three-bedroom units in Greenwood at Oakdale will sell for $179,000 to $200,000. The first 75 houses were completed in 1991. “Now that demand for town houses is so strong,” Mr. Klar said, “we are dusting off the second section and are taking it off the shelf.”