May 21, 2024
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Why developers are building new homes in the region again


After some rough years in the region’s residential real estate world, a few homebuilders are cautiously tiptoeing off the sidelines and putting new single-family inventory on the market.

In Santa Maria, The Towbes Group recently resumed building at Lavigna with a 21-home second-phase development. The new homes are the first single-family houses to be built in Santa Maria in more than two years, The Towbes Group said.

“We see buyer demand up there but we don’t see any new product up there,” said Craig Zimmerman, president of the Santa Barbara-based firm. The new homes will likely hit the market in late summer or early fall, by which time he hopes the credit markets will have thawed.

Located in the Westgate Ranch area of Santa Maria, the second phase follows the original 22 homes built by Towbes in 2008.  When completed in 2015, Lavigna will include 118 three-, four- and five-bedroom homes with floor plans ranging from 1,200 to 2,000 square feet and starting in the mid-$200,000 range.

Zimmerman said that mid-$200,000 to low-$300,000 range is seeing demand, but that the existing resale home inventory isn’t of very high quality. “What we’re seeing is that a lot of the foreclosures and short sales are lower quality,” he said.  “We see an opportunity to develop newer, higher quality homes at price points that are competitive with the foreclosure market.”

That’s the strategy in Thousand Oaks as well, where Irvine-based developer Sycamore Urban Properties is bringing 36 luxury townhomes to the market at the end of May. The townhomes had been delayed for more than two years after the previous developer filed for bankruptcy. Sycamore in turned acquired the partially developed and fully entitled hilltop property in 2010 from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which had acquired it through the failure of lender IndyMac Bank.

Sycamore made some architectural and design tweaks to the homes, completed development and will host a grand opening in late May. The three- and four-bedroom floor plans range from 1,811 to 2,095 square feet. Sycamore also brought the pricing down significantly. While the previous builder was looking at pricing in the $700,000 price range, the homes will now start at $469,900. “Prices for new homes have had to come down to be competitive with the resale market,” said, Sycamore President Mitchell Bradford.

Other new homes developments in the Tri-Counties are few and far between. The  48-townhome East Beach Collection in Santa Barbara, located at the intersection of Montecito Street and Calle Cesar Chavez, is expected to receive a LEED Platinum certification. The homes come online this fall and prices start in the mid-$400,000s. And Rice Ranch in Orcutt recently completed six new homes and started a new 10-home phase, with prices starting at $425,000.

Deckers HQ update

The Goleta City Council voted May 3 to initiate an amendment to its agreement with Sares-Regis, paving the way for Deckers Outdoor Corp., to relocate to a build-to-suit,  100,000-square foot corporate headquarters at the Cabrillo Business Park. The Ugg boot company told me in late February that pending such plan modifications, it would likely move its headquarters and about 400 employees there.

• Connecticut defense contractor Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense purchased a 265-acre campus — including 166,628 square feet of buildings — on a hilltop on White Sage Road in Moorpark. Terms were not disclosed, but Bill Kiefer of NAI Capital told  me the property was listed for $28  million. Kiefer and Tim Foutz of NAI represented Ensign-Bickford. Nick Gregg and Sterling Champ of CB Richard Ellis represented seller WP Carey & Co., an investment firm in New York. Ensign has leased the property since early 2010.

• Contact Marlize van Romburgh at