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Want new construction? Get ready to drive

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis May 1, 2013 09:02 AM

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Builders took it on the chin during the recession, with many going out of business or simply struggling to hang onto permits and undeveloped lots.

Now suddenly home builders are back, with a backlog of buyers.

And that's doubly true here in Greater Boston, which is in the midst of a years-long drought in single-family construction.

If you want something new now, you are more likely than not to have to commit to a set of drawings long before it is built. There are few, if any, newly-built, empty homes to look at.

For buyers, that means having "imagination and patience," writes Jed Kolko, Trulia's chief economist.

Get ready to drive as well. You are likely to have to drive go 128 and beyond to get what you are looking for, unless you have a million dollars to blow on a teardown/McMansion in Lexington or Needham.

How far? Well how about Rowley, tucked way up in the northeast corner of the state in Essex County.

PrimeTime Communities lined up buyers for 12 townhomes last fall in the picturesque rural town of 5,800-plus, getting just under $400,000 for 1,800 square foot units overlooking a public golf course.

The townhomes are now under construction.

"You have to drive to get to it," said Tom Skahen, partner and co-founder of Littleton-based PrimeTime told me the other day. "You see less new construction from Boston to 128. We could love to have all our business in Boston, but, quite frankly, our business is out in the suburbs, beyond 128."

Nationally, just 27 percent of new homes sold in March were completed before buyers sign the dotted line, according to Trulia.

That's down from nearly half of all new home sales back in January 2009, when buyers had their pick of empty, newly built homes to pick from.

Here's what Jed Kolko, Trulia's chief economist, said in a recent note to reporters.

It's more evidence that builders' biggest challenge is keeping up with demand. For buyers looking for new construction, they'll need imagination and patience: imagination in order to picture what the unfinished home they're bidding on might look like, and patience because they won't be moving into that unfinished home tomorrow.

Are you ready to put money down on a set of plans? How far would you go in order to buy new construction? Would you go beyond 495?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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