Holly Saunders Hawes
New construction, that unmistakable indicator of a rebounding economy, is showing new vigor this spring in the New York metropolitan area. A spate of new, environmentally conscious alternatives are luring buyers to invest in cost-effective condos, rentals and single-family homes from the Hudson Valley to southern Connecticut.
The Energy Star rating achieved by AVR Homebuilders, a privately owned real estate firm that operates from Kingston to the Hamptons, is one factor driving sales at Overlook Pointe, a new 52-acre, 263-residence community located on the farthest point west on the Hudson River waterfront in Fishkill, N.Y. To earn the Energy Star rating, homes must meet energy-efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and AVR was one of only two builders in the nation to be awarded the 2012 Energy Star Partner of the Year New Home Builder award.
According to Sue Marrinan, director of sales and marketing for AVR Home- builders, homes at Overlook Pointe in Dutchess County are at least 20 percent more efficient than conventional standard new homes built today. The cost-of-ownership savings come as the result of high-efficiency windows, efficient heating and cooling equipment that works in tandem with more effective insulation, and advanced techniques for sealing holes and cracks in the home's "envelope." Said Marrinan, "Energy Star ratings are not abstract concepts; the ratings are proven to save money for home buyers every month with lower utility bills. The homes are also quieter and healthier, and that works 12 months a year. Green construc¬tion makes a huge difference to our buyers, who are very educated and aware of green building. They see the strides that have been made recently with green building techniques. And with energy prices the way they are, they are looking for new ways to save at home."
Overlook Pointe condominiums, which will be ready for move-ins in late May, are priced from the $280,000 range, with one- to three-bedroom townhomes start-ing in the $380,000s. All homes come with either a private one- or two-car garage. Amenities include a 5,000-square¬foot clubhouse with a large open entertainment space and a wraparound deck facing the waterfront; a catering kitchen; a billiard room; a theater; a fitness center; a kid's playroom; a pool; a tennis court; and a river-front walking path. "This maintenance-free lifestyle is in high demand in this part of the world," said Marrinan, "for commuters as well as for families and empty-nesters."
In Fairfield County, Rivington by Toll Brothers in Danbury opened its new Mews Collection of single-level luxury condominiums last month. The Mews is marketed as the only new luxury single- level condominium community located within two minutes of Interstate 84 and the New York-Connecticut border.
The second of five developments at Rivington, The Mews features two¬bedroom/two-bathroom units with balconies, each approximately 1,200 to 1,300 square feet in total. The 200 units in The Mews start in the high $200,000s, and range to the low $300,0005. The Mews joins The Hills, a collection of townhouses ranging in size from 1,700 to 2,300 square feet. Approximately 1,000 units will comprise the entire Rivington community, which will center around The Rivington Club, a 17,000-square-foot community clubhouse with swimming pools, a tennis court, a fitness center, an all-weather sports court and bocce courts.
"We have a long waiting list already, and sales have only just begun," said Jack Lannamann, assistant vice president of Toll Brothers' Connecticut division and head of the Rivington project. "The key is the 1-84 location right next to the New York line, which means commuting to Westchester is relatively easy. Many of these commuters prefer to live in Connecticut because the real estate taxes are lower. Plus, we will have an excellent amenity in the community center, The advantage to this lifestyle is that no one, in any age group, likes to mow the lawn or shovel snow — or pay high taxes." A development on an even larger scale is going up on a sprawling site along the once-industrial shores in the south end of Stamford, Harbor Point is ultimately going to build out 6 million square feet of residential and commercial space on 80 acres, and will include some 4,000 rental units with a million square feet of office and retail mixed in.
The project is scheduled to be completed by 2014, but is well underway today. Keys to its popularity are its LEED Gold certification and its location near the Stamford transportation center, the busiest train station on the coast between New York and Boston. "The residential rental market is really strong right now, and we are leasing units at the rate of one unit per day," said John Freeman, general counsel for the Harbor Point Development and executive vice president of the Stamford-based Building and Land Technology, Harbor Point's developer. "In Connecticut and across the country, many developers are turning to this type of sustainable, transit-oriented develop-ment by taking old industrial properties and converting them into housing. Being part of a walkable, sustainable com-munity not so dependent on the car is something we thought the market would demand. People here live in an urban environment, are a few minutes walk to a major train station and can easily get to any major city — including Grand Central within 45 minutes by train. Yet they have a five-acre park outside their front door where they can walk the dog and play with the kids."
Noroton Green is a new development consisting of eight stand-alone, green- certified homes in Darien, Conn. The developers obtained a special permit to build energy-efficient, LEED Gold-certified houses within walking distance of shopping and the train. The three-bed-room, 2,800-square-foot homes, each listing for $1,395,000, are equipped with high-efficiency boilers, energy-efficient windows, spray-in insulation, and cement siding with composite trim that does not need painting.
Exterior maintenance is taken care of by a private association. "The value here is making life simple and easy for busy people," explained Holly Hawes, associate broker with Halstead Property. "Everyone needs to reach the train for work, and pick up something from the store on the way home. People want their lives to be easier, and not have to worry about the heating and cooling bills, or keeping up the lawn and the house. Condo living is popular for many, but the attachment to another house can be uncomfortable for some. Here you have the ease of condo living, but in a small single-family home."
Plans for a new home being built to order on a knoll just off Route 172 near the center of Bedford are taking shape this spring. Respected area builder Ron Parlato, who designed Mariah Carey's Westchester home, is offering to build a 4,500- or 6,000-square-foot Bedford home according to the client's wishes. The smaller option, on a four-acre lot with room for a pool and/or a tennis court, will list at $2,995,000, with the larger home going for $3,395,000. The plans are a good sign for the area, said Phyllis Weydig, associate broker with North Country Sotheby's International Realty. "There is just not a lot of new construction in this area these days, but builders are just now starting to call us again, looking for land to build on, " she said. "That is a clear indication that the market is finally starting to change."
The proposed home is more compact than many high-end properties in the area. "People are looking for smaller homes of exceptional quality — that is a market trend in this part of the world," she concluded. "It is just not that easy for us to sell the 10,000- and 12,000-square¬foot houses anymore; Homeowners these days just don't want to heat them and take care of them. New construction minimizes the maintenance of a house for the first 10 or 15 years you own, and here you get all the new green features and Internet technology, along with very efficient and quiet furnaces with multiple zones of heat and cooling. That is the future of smaller high-end homes like this: less quantity, but more quality."
Friday, April 13, 2012