COVER STORY - HARTFORD COURANT
When JFC Endeavors held an open house one weekend in May for its new 45-unit housing development in Farmington, it hoped to sell two, maybe three homes.
By the time staffers locked the doors of the model home that Sunday night, they were stunned with their tally: 10 homes sold.
It didn't end there. Two weeks later, the first phase of Langdon's Quarters, as the new community is called, was sold out, with 19 homes purchased. There are at least a dozen people now on a waiting list for Phase 2, which isn't expected to begin for at least six months.
The pace of sales was so fast and unexpected that the company had to shut down its sales office for a short time and tell real estate agents they couldn't accept any more business. JFC also raised prices four times, and the homes, which started at $419,600, now cost $20,000 more.
"We were completely, completely shocked," said real estate agent George J. Santos, who is working with JFC Endeavors to sell the homes, in the Unionville section of Farmington. "We knew we had a good product. We knew we'd do well. But we never, ever expected to sell out this quickly."
Is the housing crisis over?
Not so fast, agents say.
The quick success of Langdon's Quarters does not herald a return of multi-bid offers and houses selling for tens of thousands of dollars above the asking price, conditions that were common in the housing boom of the early 2000s.
Instead, the success of this development seems to be the result of the golden rule of real estate: the right houses, in the right location at the right price. It is a formula that always works, the real estate agents said, even in a down housing economy.
"People really want new construction, and this is new construction that is affordable," said Linda Frankl, an agent with RE/MAX Advantage in Avon. "And $420,000 in Farmington is affordable.
"In this market, price is always the deciding factor," she said. "Things will sell in this market if they are priced right."
She did, however, pause for a moment of incredulity.
"It's extraordinary. It's especially extraordinary in this market," Frankl said. "And it's wonderful."
Rob Giuffria, an agent with Prudential Premier Homes who specializes in relocation, said there is pent-up demand for new construction in the Farmington Valley for something priced at just above $400,000 because many of the new homes built in the area come with typical price tags of $700,000 or more.
"To get into Farmington in a new home under $500,000 is a win," he said. "There's just not that much new construction in that area that's under $500,000."
He said the developer had priced the models well, with a base price of $419,600, an attractive starting point. But it is still just a starting point, Giuffria noted.
"That's for three bedrooms. If you add a fourth bedroom, plus other upgrades, you are inching closer to $500,000," said Giuffria, who has seen the new development and brought clients there. Granite counters are standard in the kitchen, for example, but cost extra to add to the bathrooms.
For Alison Murphy, the homes in Langdon's Quarters were priced just right, even with some of those extras. She was among the first to sign a contract to build a new home there.
"They started out pricing them low, which was really smart," said Murphy, who lives nearby in Farmington but has outgrown her home. "This is a builder with a good reputation, and they don't build enormous, huge houses, like the majority of houses that go up in Farmington. People can't afford those $800,000 houses right now."
She said her family, including five kids, wasn't necessarily looking to move immediately but was drawn to the new homes. The developer is custom-designing the family a four-bedroom home.
"We knew we would eventually be moving, but we are doing it now because of this development," she said. "As soon as we heard about it, we said, 'OK, where do we sign?'"