Homebuilder has sights set on Balto. area D. R. Horton plans 41-home development north of Hunt Valley

'Viable place to build'

1st major builder in recent years to move into region

August 23, 1998|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

D. R. Horton Inc., one of the nation's largest and most aggressive homebuilders in the past year, will enter the Baltimore market with a luxury single-family development north of Hunt Valley.

The company plans to build 41 homes on 1- to 3-acre lots with base prices beginning at $400,000. The 154-acre development, called the Preserve at Hunt Valley, would be adjacent to Gunpowder Falls State Park and three miles north of Hunt Valley on York Road.

The move into the Baltimore market is the first by a major national builder in recent years. D. R. Horton, based in Arlington, Texas, was the nation's 14th-largest builder last year, selling 5,018 homes and posting revenue of $837 million. The builder has been active in the Washington suburbs and Northern Virginia since 1991.

"What is interesting with D. R. Horton coming in is that they are a high-end builder; they are not a high volume," said Anna Pitheon of Meyers Housing Data Reports, a publication that tracks and analyzes new-home sales. "Their niche is more of being a custom-home builder who happens to build a series of homes."

Pitheon compared Horton's product line to Philadelphia-based Toll Brothers Inc. and NV Homes in Virginia.

With new-home sales at a record pace nationally, D. R. Horton has 6,559 homes on order, the largest in its 20-year history. For its third quarter ended June 30, the publicly traded company reported net income of $30.2 million, up 94 percent from the same quarter in 1997.

The company operates coast-to-coast, building in 23 states and 39 markets. In the past year, it acquired major builders in Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; and Louisville, Ky., as well as Dobson Builders Inc., which operates in 11 Southeast cities.

The company not only is looking at Baltimore County, but also is negotiating land positions in Howard and Anne Arundel counties. John M. Flaherty, D. R. Horton vice president and division manager in Maryland, said the move into the Baltimore market was made because of location and cost.

'Local knowledge'

Flaherty has worked in the Baltimore homebuilding scene for 22 years, holding executive positions with the Ryland Group, Regency Homes and Toll Brothers before moving to D. R. Horton in January.

"My predecessor, who ran the division for six years, had more of an orientation for Montgomery County and Northern Virginia," Flaherty said. "I think you need to be cautious when you are entering the Baltimore County sub-markets. If you don't have local knowledge, you can make the wrong move.

"Local knowledge is very important as to where you need to locate with a high-end product. Hunt Valley is certainly very desirable. Always has been and will continue to be."

Flaherty became familiar with the 154-acre property -- which is being developed by Sax Property LLC -- while working with Toll Brothers Inc. "Luckily, when I came to D. R. Horton, I was able to beat them [Toll Brothers] to the punch, because I think they were still shopping it," Flaherty said.

"I still think that Baltimore County is a very viable place to live and build."

'Affordable place'

He added that his company is paying Baltimore County impact fees of about $1,500 per lot, compared with $5,000 per lot to $15,000 per lot in Montgomery County.

"It [Baltimore County] is a very affordable place to live. I think you get more house for the dollar and, in terms of aesthetics, it is a beautiful county when you get up into the Hunt Valley and Shawan Valley and Worthington," he said.

Ellwood Sinskey of Sax Property LLC -- a joint venture between Sinskey Building Co. and Gaylord Brooks Realty Inc. -- said a 42nd lot with an early-1800s home and a 374-year-old Osage orange tree are being preserved, with the land's previous owners, the Sax family, having an option to refurbish the home.

Sinskey said their original plan was to sell the lots to individual homeowners, but D. R. Horton's offer to buy the property was "too good to pass up."

$6 million price tag

"If there was any way that there was a '9 1/2 ' or '10' in rural lots, this is it," Sinskey said, "and they [D. R. Horton] paid a '10' price for it."

According to Flaherty, the price of each finished lot would be $146,000, with the total price tag to D. R. Horton about $6 million.

D. R. Horton plans to offer seven models, including a rancher and several Colonials, one with a first-floor master bedroom, an increasingly popular option for buyers who are moving to a second or third home. The homes will range from 3,200 square feet to 5,000 square feet.

"We do customization," Flaherty said. "We will individualize plans for a buyer if they don't particularly like what we have to offer. And we work through a local architect so that we are able to react fairly quickly, unlike some of the larger national builders who have centralized architecture and can't react to changes."

Traditional homes

"The Baltimore market is a little more traditional in terms of brick and style of homes," Flaherty said. "In the Hunt Valley area, for example, you don't see too much contemporary flair. It's still the basic two-story, center-hall Colonial, which is the bread-and-butter unit at the high end. In Northern Virginia, you will find some more exotic features than Baltimore.

"You see a lot of stone and stucco done in Northern Virginia and not nearly as much of it in Baltimore County. And we would like to introduce some of those elements [at Hunt Valley], make them available, put them on some homes."

Grading has begun at the site, which will retain 82 acres of green space. Flaherty expects to have a sales office open within 45 days.

Pub Date: 8/23/98

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