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Economy drags down sales of high-end coastal homes

By BY J.R. ORTEGA - JRORTEGA@VICAD.COM
Aug. 15, 2009 at 3:15 a.m.

The Sanctuary at Costa Grande sits right outside Port O'Connor and has two houses constructed thus far. Most of the landscaping has been completed and more than 600 of its 767 available lots have been sold.

CALHOUN COUNTY - The economic tide has not fully turned for waterfront housing developments between Seadrift and Port O'Connor.

Developments along the 18-mile stretch of Texas 185 have seen business grow sluggish but not dormant.

Regardless, the coast continues to awaken.

Appraised values at five of the developments have continued to increase this year, said Phillip Gonzales, Calhoun County chief appraiser.

The Sanctuary at Costa Grande has had a 12 percent increase; Caracol has had 8; The Bay Club at Falcon Point Ranch, has had 6; Swan Point has had 5 and The Tidelands, which wasn't counted in 2008, will draw in nearly $5 million.

"The development has been hindered by the economic downturn," he said. "Right now, not everybody is willing to cut loose and buy a recreational piece of property."

FALCON POINT RANCH

Jack and Billie Breeden own a home in Falcon Point Ranch in Seadrift, which they also manage.

Property sales are slow, but have not come to a screeching halt, the couple of 29 years said.

"The economy has slowed down a bunch," Jack Breeden said. "But we're seeing an influx of people that are interested in buying for the future."

The development has sold 80 to 85 percent of its 108 lots in the past three years.

The economic slump this past year has had an effect on sales, but it's beginning to pick up, said Bill Ball of Sea Drift Ranch Partners.

"Only one lot was sold between January and June," he said. "We've sold two this summer, and we're currently in negotiations on several more."

Development is pending approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a 700-acre environmentally conscious marina, he said.

The permit could take more than a year to be approved.

One home is complete, and a foundation has been poured for another scheduled to begin construction in a couple of weeks.

Two other homes are slated for construction in the coming months, Breeden said.

When Breeden found the job as a manager, his wife was quick to leave her job as a registered nurse of 30 years for a change and a challenge, she said.

Both say they would have not invested in coastal growth if they did not have faith in it.

"As we grow, hopefully the tourism and economy of Seadrift will follow," Jack Breeden said.

SWAN POINT LANDING

Next door, Swan Point Landing has also seen buyers hesitate, said Philip Lewis, president of Swan Point Development Company.

The Corps of Engineers recently green-lighted the creation of a 1.5-acre lagoon on the pre-existing marina, he said.

A 30,000-square-foot building will surround the marina and will house 17 lodge rooms and several other retail stores, like a restaurant, an Orvis fishing store, bait shop and fuel center.

Construction bids will be sent next month, and construction should commence in 2010, he said.

The added facilities will create 33 more jobs, he said.

Half of inquirers are interested in purchasing lots to build a primary homes, while the other half are looking for summer homes.

Between November and May, tours and sales were virtually inactive. The past 45 days have improved for the development, he said.

"The past year, the economy slowed down sales, but the attitude is changing," he said. "People seem to be feeling more confident about their futures."

One buyer has already begun construction on a home and another lot has been sold and is pending construction.

THE SANCTUARY AT COSTA GRANDE

The 767-unit development already has sold 610 units since it started in 2006, said Darryl Hammond, general manager of D.H. Texas development and principal developer of the project.

Like Falcon Point Ranch, the development has sold close to 80 percent of its units.

Two houses are already complete and one is currently occupied, Hammond said.

Several foreclosures have occurred, but Hammond said this comes with the property selling territory.

"If you have 767 home sites, you're going to have a few foreclosures no matter what the economy is like," he said. "I'm not sure how much of that you attribute to the economy."

THE TIDELANDS

The 78-lot waterfront community, nudged just outside Port O'Connor, has not seen construction, said Gary Cunningham of Third Coast Concepts.

Since 2006, 16 lots have been sold and seven have been reserved, he said.

From November to date, The Tidelands has not sold any properties, Cunningham said.

The lack of sales can be attributed to the lack of construction outsiders may see going on with the landscaping and homes, he said.

"We're waiting because the economy is still in a slump," he said. "We're waiting for a construction loan."

Plans are for construction to pick up this winter.

CARACOL

Many that look into the Caracol in Port O'Connor are looking for summer and weekend homes, said Lauren Brindley, director of marketing for Trend Development.

The 74-lot waterfront development had seen quiet times until the beginning of June, she said.

"We've had a rush of activity lately," she said. "People are tired of playing wait and see and they're ready to go."

Construction on two houses will begin in little more than a month, she said.

Caracol has also planned a marina with 44 slips and two condominium sites.

Brindley could not provide a set timeframe for commencement of the project because the economy is still shaky, she said.

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