From WaterWays and Buckhead up to Black Creek, developers and marketers sound bullish about growing new neighborhoods in Bryan County in 2013.
WaterWays Township, which opened for sales in summer 2011, is the most ambitious of the recent developments near Richmond Hill. Owned by Savannah Land Holdings with Paul Fletcher of Fletcher Management Co. as managing partner, the 2,300-acre gated community’s master plan eventually will accommodate about 3,000 homes.
It is designed around a stretch of marsh front and features a 3.5-mile freshwater lagoon system for canoeing, kayaking and bass fishing, with amenities designed by pro sport-fishing personality Bill Dance.
Just one home was built in the first 12 months, but interest took off with 17 new transactions in the latter half of 2012, reports Vance Askew, WaterWays sales and marketing director. Now 18 homes are built or under construction, with families already living in some.
“Our sales story is really what has happened in the last six months,” Askew said. “We have a magnificent piece of Coastal Georgia real estate here with six and a half miles of marsh front and some of the most stunning moss-draped oak trees that you could find anywhere. But ours is a story of demand and inventory matching.”
As one local real estate agent explained, banks that lend construction money have limited the number of houses contractors can build on “spec.” But having some inventory for buyers to see, and for some families to move into quickly, is essential in the current market, Askew said. This balancing act made WaterWay’s first year “interesting,” as he put it.
“But the last six months has been really, really encouraging for us and demonstrates the energy that’s in the market,” Askew said.
Newer still is Buckhead East. Also south of Richmond Hill, it’s part of a constellation of communities, with the established Buckhead and Buckhead North, from developer Johnny Murphy. But Buckhead East is on the other side of Highway 144, off Veterans Parkway in the vicinity of DuVaul Henderson Park.
Mungo Homes is representing Buckhead East. When full, the plan will include 199 homes, said Mungo Homes agent Brandy Jenkins. The first phase, 35 lots, is ready, but no homes have been built.
An opening event is still being planned for late March. But without even a construction trailer on site, the first lot has sold, Jenkins said. The developer says the timing is right.
“The Richmond Hill marketplace did better than the greater Savannah area through the recession, and we basically have absorbed all of the inventory,” said Johnny Murphy. “There’s very few vacant lots and there’s very few new homes under construction for sale, and with the market picking up like you’re seeing nationally, then things should do well.”
Buckhead East is planned to include two neighborhoods: Brookhaven, with homes in the $180,000 and up range; and Castleoak, with homes starting in the mid-200s. Homes in WaterWays Township range from the mid-200s to the mid-400s, also in two districts.
Prices for similar-size homes are generally lower in North Bryan, and recent subdivisions around Pembroke, Ellabell and Black Creek tend to be smaller than in South Bryan. However, home sales have been steady, and recent subdivisions continue to grow.
“There are several new home communities in our area,” reports Melissa Thurston, an agent with Summit Homes & Land. “We sold new-construction homes in Magnolia Landing last year and we are currently building and selling in Magnolia Landing.”
Magnolia Creek Plantation has been open for five years or more and only a few of the 90 lots remain to be sold. But Magnolia Landing, off Carlos Cowart Road at Highway 204, opened about three years ago and about 15 of the 70 lots have sold so far, according to Thurston.
Another recent development in the Ellabell area is Brewton Acres, off Wilma Edwards Road. Beacon Builders, which builds homes at Magnolia Landing, is also building at Brewton, which is not represented by Summit Homes & Land.
Thurston traced recent residential development in North Bryan to a crop of new subdivisions, including Victoria Place, Thurston Place and Magnolia Creek, begun around 2005. Not everything in the housing market has been rosy since then, but she is encouraged about 2013.
“We have several new contracts, which are pre-sells to build new houses,” Thurston said.