Goodbye Formal Living Room, Today’s Orange County New Home

New home construction has begun again in Orange County.  But there are some significant differences from the standpoint of the developers, as well as the product that is being offered, and who is actually working with the home buyer.  Few things are as they were during the construction boom of the early 2000’s.

Who Is Building My House?

It’s not exactly a coup for the home building industry.  The big beneficiary of this new construction will rest squarely with the land owner, The Irvine Company, or Donald Bren. Of course, we understand that one of the biggest land owners in Orange County would have a good deal to gain, so how is this different?

Normally a home builder ‘takes down’, or buys the land and they develop that housing project.  Today, the builder’s inability to secure financing has forced home builders out of the role of developer.  Instead, in the most recent, and upcoming projects you see in Irvine, The Irvine Company has decided to step back into the role as developer.  They are responsible for sales, marketing, warranty, design, options, etc.

And the home builders they have hired for the construction process are in essence, simply acting as general contractors.  The home builders are taking what they can to stay afloat and finding new ways to adapt their company skill set in this economic environment.

It helps to illustrate the pains that the builder Lennar is experiencing as land owner for the languishing Great Park.  Without the ability to finance, development continues to be at a standstill.

No More McMansions – Today’s Housing Product

The Irvine Company has been around the proverbial block once or twice.  Their development plans have been well thought out.  They’ve carefully crafted a plan based on solid consumer research, a real understanding of the local economy, and I suspect, a fair amount of insight into the National Housing Policy.

The emphasis is clearly on higher density product – apartments, condos, and high density single family housing with nothing over 2500 square feet.  Long gone are the days of the McMansion development.

The Characteristics of Today’s Orange County New Home

  • Open floor plans – big windows, great rooms tied to the kitchen.  Great rooms are genius – space where we live!
  • Granite is standard – we love our granite for some reason
  • Goodbye to formal areas – don’t pretend you are disappointed.  I sit in my formal living room once a week, just to say “See, I use it”.  My husband would rather move the furniture out and use it as an indoor football field.
  • Pre-wired for plasma television – sorry, I just can’t relate to our love affair with the idiot box, but there it is….and standard no less.
  • Big fireplaces – slightly confused here, but they didn’t call me for this one.  It can’t possibly be those harsh cold winters…maybe we’re just romantics.
  • California Rooms – now this, I like.  They are stucco covered patios with ceiling fans in the backyard – it’s a form of extending the living space.  The downside, when you have little or no yard (as these developments surely do), it pretty much takes up what little yard space you have.
  • Smaller homes – no more sprawling floor plans and massive square footage.  Very little is over 2500 square feet.

But Is Anyone Buying? Actually, They Are …In Irvine

There’s an interesting phenomenon happening in Irvine.  Demand has remainded strong throughout this bubble burst, and interestingly enough, Irvine has one of the lowest percentages of distress inventory in South Orange County.  It appears to be it’s own micro-economy supported by local industry, UCI, and the long-standing desire that consumers have had to own within Irvine.

The premium location, the highly ranked school district, the low crime rate, and the ease of commute, keep Irvine highly sought after.   Recently, the KB Home’s Southern California president stated that the KB Coronado development in Irvine, was their best selling product in the nation.

By creating lower price points with some of the new high density product, those that have wanted to live in Irvine, but previously may have found it out of reach, are finally finding their way in.  This type of product has never been available on the ‘ranch’.  Homes are selling same day as release and people are on a waiting lists.

The upcoming projects will continue to be in Irvine and some development is slated for the Laguna Audubon area.  Although the original product was to be luxury, large homes, those projects have again been scaled back to high density product as well.


About the Author | Linsey Planeta

Selling real estate since 2001. Active in the South Orange County real estate market. Broker Principle of M Realty.


One Response to “Goodbye Formal Living Room, Today’s Orange County New Home”

  1. The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly in South Orange County Real Estate | OC Real Estate Voice on September 6th, 2010 11:15 pm

    [...] communities have been more resilient over the course of this housing crisis than others.  In my recent post discussing the  product profile for new residential construction in Orange County, I discussed the [...]

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About Linsey

Linsey PlanetaLinsey Planeta
M Realty
(949) 939-2514
License #: 01312577



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