It’s spring! Are San Diegans buying new homes?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 5:57 a.m.

 
Photo by Charlie Neuman – Union-Tribune staff
Jaimin, left, and Nivedita Bhise tour a model home at Pulte Homes’ The Pines, a 4S Ranch development, on a recent Saturday.

More would-be buyers in San Diego County are out looking for new homes this season, but many aren’t yet ready to buy in the absence of federal tax incentives and amid the ongoing struggle to secure financing, industry experts say.

“It’s improved, but not great,” said Peter Dennehy, a vice president of John Burns Real Estate Consulting. “The housing market is still very challenged.”

Sales of newly built homes, which lately have made up about 6 percent of total sales, have stayed mainly flat over the last three years, figures from DataQuick Information Systems show.

The county recorded 184 in March, a 26 percent jump from what builders called a dismal February, and a 0.5 percent increase from a year ago. A little more than 200 new homes were sold in March 2009.

Despite sales apparently leveling out, they’re still far from the boom-era peak of 1,640 in September 2004, a consequence of little building in the region, competition from the market’s distressed properties and tight lending standards.

San Diego County’s median price for new homes in March was $528,750, up 15.5 percent from February and up 25.1 percent one year ago. The peak was $553,500 in February 2008, DataQuick data shows.

Nationwide, March sales of new homes were up 11.1 percent from February, the worst year on record for such transactions, according to Monday’s report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Still, new-home sales in March were down 21.9 percent from a year ago, when a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000 homes were sold. March’s median price was $213,800, up 2.9 percent in February but down 4.8 percent from a year ago.

 

Photo by Charlie Neuman – Union-Tribune staff
George and Jade Shen sign the purchase-agreement papers for the home they’re buying at Pulte Homes’ The Pines, a 4S Ranch development. At right is sales consultant Leah Sidhu. They are upgrading from a nearby condo.

Dennehy, of John Burns Real Estate Consulting, says the folks who appear most serious about buying new homes are first-timers in the $300,000 price range (seen mostly in South County) and those moving up to the $600,000 to $700,000 bracket (mostly in North County.)

Michelle Chang and her husband, Marc Takenaga, 35, are among the upgraders.

They’re about to close on a $630,000 home in Shea’s Madeira project in Del Sur that’s about 800 square feet bigger than their current home, also in the Del Sur area.

“We wanted more entertaining space and a bigger backyard,” said the 32-year-old attorney, who’s been on a waiting list for the new home since last year.

Some job growth in the biotech and healthcare sectors also have attracted potential buyers toward the Interstate 15 corridor, where most of those jobs and new homebuilding are found.

A large share of new homes on the market in 2011 are in the North, including Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe and Del Sur, mainly ranging from the $600,000s to $800,000s.

Steve Doyle, president of Brookfield Homes San Diego/Riverside division, acknowledges the year started slow, but he says it picked up some in March because of people relocating to San Diego County for well-paying jobs.

“They’re coming from the Midwest, the East Coast and North County,” Doyle said.

Dennehy, of the real estate consulting company, predicts another flat year for new homes, especially with no federal tax credit motivating consumers to buy.

He expects an increase in new home sales in 2012 and beyond.

New homes in San Diego County, 2011

Community Opening Unit Count City Price Range
Solaire of ColRich Residential Aug. 140 San Marcos mid $200,000s
Hampton Lane at Pardee Homes May 114 Carmel Valley Low 700’s
Monterey at Otay Ranch at KB Home Feb. 95 Chula Vista Starts at $340,990
Indigo at McMillin Lomas Verdes May 85 Chula Vista $400,000s
Amberly by Pulte Homes at La Costa Oaks April 83 Carlsbad High $500s
The Pines by Pulte Homs at 4S Ranch April 81 Rancho Santa Fe High $680s
Westcott at La Costa Oaks April 80 Carlsbad $652,900
Toll Brothers at Arrowood – Fairways Feb 79 Oceanside $549,995-$609,995
Verona at Rolling Hills Ranch Sept. 78 Chula Vista High $600,000s
Brightwater at Pardee Oct./Nov. 75 Carmel Valley TBD
Toll Brothers at StoneBridge May 71 San Diego TBD
Carleton, Standard Pacific March 70 Del Sur $625,900
Arbor Ranch by Centex April 57 San Marcos $350s
Valencia, California West Communities March 54 Del Sur High $600,000s
Presidio, Standard Pacific March 52 Del Sur $716,900
The Willows by Pulte Homes April 50 4S Ranch $740s
Aria at Bella Lago, Shea Homes San Diego June 46 Chula Vista $600,000s
Sentinels, Davidson Communities Jan. 17 Del Sur $700,000s

Please note: This is only a sampling of new homes for San Diego County in 2011. The information, ordered by total units either already built or expected, is from individual builders.

Lily Leung: (619)293-1719; lily.leung@uniontrib.com; Twitter @LilyShumLeung

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