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turdburglar (43.22)

The key to the homebuilding turnaround



August 11, 2011 – Comments (12)

I live in a Centex house in a Centex neighborhood.  My wife describes Centex houses as "boring and bland".  We have a small garage, a small yard, and an HOA that tells us we can't put a shed in the back yard or even put solar screens on the windows without their permission.  We also get the privilege for paying $420 per year to fund these guys to make sure that none of our neighbors can put solar screens on their windows and mess up the aesthetic of the neighborhood.  The homeowners in our neighborhood don't control the HOA because the builder is still building or at least could be building if they had anyone who wanted to buy a cookie-cutter house in a cookie-cutter neighborhood, so the builder maintains complete control of the HOA.

We have two young children and we'd like to move to a house with a bigger yard and a bigger garage and be able to put a storage shed in the back yard for kids toys, lawn equipment, power tools, etc so we'd actually have room to keep the cars in the garage.  We are looking for a house.  Yes, we are in the market.  Are you listening builders?

We have looked around and found plenty of other "Centex neighborhoods".  I put that in quotes because Centex isn't really the only one who builds neighborhoods like ours - cheap cookie cutter houses with small yards and HOA's.  We can spot a Centex neighborhood from the highway and just avoid them.  There are a ton of these type of houses available, but they still seem to be building them.

We have also looked around and found plenty of upscale Centex neighborhoods.  These are just better quality houses and more massive houses but still just as close together and you still have an HOA telling you what you can and cannot do.  They just don't meet our needs.

We have also found a few "80's neighborhoods".  Back in the 1980's, bigger yards were popular.  But the problem is so were smaller houses with smaller bathrooms and outdated kitchens.  They don't build neighborhoods like this any more.  Circle driveways, huge back yards, houses that don't all look the same, etc.  But I want a newer house to go with all that. 

We have also found "out in the country neighborhoods" where you get an acre or two, but you are about 30 miles out of town and still in a HOA that tells you what kind of fence you can have among other things.  I don't really want a 30 mile addition to my commute or a horse barn for that matter.

My point is that the houses being built right now are just same same as the ones in foreclosure or the one we already live in.  The builders just don't think we have enough supply of Centex-type houses yet.  Small yards are the only way to go in a place like north Texas where there is nothing but land.  You develop a little section of land out in the middle of nowhere and you cram 500 houses on it like you're setting up dominoes.  The you put them on the market along with the other 5000 homes just like them and expect to make a profit by doing this.

If we are going to see a turnaround in homebuilding, it will not be from demand suddenly increasing for suburban homes crammed together in cookie-cutter neighborhoods with small yards and HOA's.  They are going to need to build something different that isn't already over-supplied by the existing homes market.

12 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On August 11, 2011 at 12:55 PM, chk999 (99.97) wrote:

HOAs are the devil. Do not buy a house that has an HOA.

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#2) On August 11, 2011 at 12:58 PM, turdburglar (43.22) wrote:

That's my point - it's hard to find one that doesn't.

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#3) On August 11, 2011 at 1:10 PM, TheDumbMoney (81.87) wrote:

It's funny -- you're in Texas?  It is interesting to me how HOAs have sort of replaced city planning in newer communities. 

Where I live in CA there is no HOA, but the city has codes that, say, prevent me from adding another bedroom to my house if it would put the house too close to the street, etc.; but I can get a "variance" which is not terribly hard to get.  

I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of people there are in this country who hate "government planning," but live in HOA house communities, thus replacing elected tyrants with neighborhood tyrants who don't grant variances.  Places here in CA like Riverside are more like where you're at, where some of the regulation is done by HOAs.  Personally I'd vastly prefer to have city planners who can be gotten rid of.  HOA Articles are actually much harder to change.

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#4) On August 11, 2011 at 1:18 PM, miteycasey (29.05) wrote:

I live in one of the '80's neighborhood' and love it. Of course I don't plan on moving so I don't mind fixtures a bit out of date.

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#5) On August 11, 2011 at 1:28 PM, Teacherman1 (< 20) wrote:

HOA's have been the norm in Texas for some time.

Since most of the newer developments are under County governments rather than City control, it gives more local control.

The Zoning laws that used to be the norm, were even more restrictive, and the boards harder to deal with.

The idea was to maintain property values, but they don't seem to have helped as much as anticipated. In my area that had more to do with "out of state" speculators buying a lot of the houses and driving up the prices when they were building, but adding to the downside as the economy tanked.

On the other hand, the property values have not been as volatile as in some other parts of the country.

In my subdivision you can build a storage "shed" as long as it has the same materials and appearance as the house.

It would be great if you could have the benefits of living closer in to the things you want to be near, but have the benefits of living "out in the country"

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#6) On August 11, 2011 at 1:34 PM, wolfman225 (42.90) wrote:

If you have the means, have you considered buying a plot and retaining an architect/builder to custom build?  That could be the perfect solution.  You could have both the large yard and floor plan you need, with no HOA.  Costs/acre are relatively flat and with the downturn in building you should be able to build  custom for nearly the same price/sq ft as an existing house.

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#7) On August 11, 2011 at 1:34 PM, TDRH (97.30) wrote:

We purchased an older house in an  "80's neighborhood" in Jersey Village (small municipality in Houston area).   Not sure who the builders were for this community, but the lots are big like you said,  and the kitchen and bathrooms are relatively large and easy to upgrade and no HOA.  If you want a "newer" house, maybe this will not work, but the price per square foot made it an easy decision for us.

The problem I have with the newer houses and developments is that in Houston at least they are so far out.   If you work on that particular side of Houston, it might work, but otherwise the commute and gas will wear you out.

 Disclosure, I am not a realtor. 





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#8) On August 11, 2011 at 1:40 PM, PeteysTired (< 20) wrote:

Centex :(

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#9) On August 11, 2011 at 2:20 PM, turdburglar (43.22) wrote:

I agree that eventually we might have to buy an 80's house, but what I don't understand is why they aren't still building houses on larger lots.  We have vast amounts of land around here so it isn't like the land is scarce or valuable. 

Building your own house is extremely expensive.  It can be done, but the costs are a lot higher than if you buy one already built.

As far as zoning vs HOA, it is two different things.  I don't want someone building a poultry farm or cell phone tower in the lot next door, but that doesn't mean we need to pay $420 per year to some management company to drive around and hand out violations. 

I guess I am just puzzled that we don't get more variety of neighborhoods to choose from.  They don't make new neighborhoods for people that don't care that much of someone moves in a paints their house pink or puts plastic flamingoes in the yard or drives a junky old car.  There is just an assumption that if I buy a house I am terribly worried that some neighbor will move in and do something to violate the sameness somehow.

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#10) On August 12, 2011 at 11:38 AM, SweetMircha (79.18) wrote:

Why don't you buy a house that's a total wreck on an original big lot (not an HOA); tear down that shack and then get a reputable builder to build you a custom designed house.  You can add a shed later on and whatever else your heart desires.

You might even get lucky and find such a property that's in forclosure for pennies on the dollar.

That's the way I would go, if I were dealing with such a situation.

I'm a Canadian with a different way of thinking.

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#11) On August 15, 2011 at 11:29 AM, turdburglar (43.22) wrote:


I agree that it may be the way to go, but it still seems strange that with a glut of "housing boom" inventory, builders continue to build more of the exact same thing rather than something different. 

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#12) On August 19, 2011 at 8:45 PM, SweetMircha (79.18) wrote:

Td-burg, I agree with you on your statement wholeheartedly.  I too don't like cookie-cutter houses that all resemble each other on tiny 3000 sqft lots more or less. I don't like to shake hands with my neighbour through our windows.

I like space & some privacy; nice lawns & overlowing with flowering bushes/perenials. I hate electric baseboard heating but I'm all for geo-thermal and heat pumps, as I live where there's a bit of snow and more rain in the winter.

I'm looking to downsize right now at age 56 from 2200sq ft of a multi-level  house and, down to about 1500 sq ft. all on 1 level on a 7000sq ft lot. That'll give me enough space for my lovely gardens that I keep planting. I need it to be different than the houses around me as well.

I sure hear Ya and, I 'm in a similar boat as you.

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