Archive for Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Growth sparks homebuilding

March 22, 2000

Corliss Thompson and his wife, Susan Heinke, may very well be the first of many.

The first to move into a new home in the Eagle Valley subdivision, the first in the neighborhood to get water turned on, the first to have the gas turned on and the first to have a telephone.

The telephone was the hardest, Thompson said.

"Twelfth Street didn't exist on the AT&T computer mapping system," Thompson said. "And if it doesn't exist, you don't get a phone."

But Thompson started plugging away, and by the time they moved into their house in January, their phone was connected.

Like many who move to the area, Thompson and Heinke, who lived in Overland Park, learned of Tonganoxie through someone else.

"My wife is an occupational therapist and about three years ago she had a patient from Tonganoxie. He told my wife that we ought to move out here," Thompson said.

They visited Tonganoxie in August 1998 and even attended the Leavenworth County Fair.

About a year later when they heard about the new Eagle Valley subdivision, they came back. They liked what they saw. And today they like it even better.

"Since we got in on the ground floor, we were able to make a lot of changes to the design and we are quite happy with it," Thompson said.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Ric Burke, Lawrence, held an open house in a new home built by Jim Christian, Lawrence, at Tonganoxie's Eagle Valley subdivision.

Burke, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker-McGrew Real Estate Inc., Lawrence, has been in the business for four years. Prior to that, he worked in construction for 20 years.

The housing market is strong in Tonganoxie, Burke said.

However, Burke said he's concerned it may take awhile to find buyers for the two dozen new homes going up in the area.

"I'm a little worried about the absorption rates, that being the number of houses that the city can absorb in a year," Burke said.

He noted the Eagle Valley subdivision and the new Stone Creek subdivision going up on the northeast corner of Tonganoxie.

"If you build 50 houses in a year in a small town, it's impractical to think you can sell 50 houses in a year," Burke said.

But he said Tonganoxie residents, as well as people from other towns, are interested in the area.

"I have actually gotten quite a few inquiries from townspeople about houses out here," Burke said.

Art Hancock, a principal in the Stone Creek subdivision, said he predicts that once the streets are in, it will take about 60 days to sell the lots in the development's first phase.

"We aren't entering into contracts until we finish the streets and that should be around the first of April," Hancock said. "We have a long list of people waiting."

Those primarily interested in purchasing the 40 duplex lots and 31 single-family lots are builders, Hancock said. "There are some local people interested, too," he added.

Almost all of those interested in the duplex lots are people who plan to build them to keep, not sell, Hancock said.

He estimated that about two-thirds of the single-family lots would go to builders and the rest to people who plan to build homes for themselves.

The houses in this first phase will probably run in the $120,000 to $145,000 range, he said.

Hancock indicated that there is also significant interest in the Stone Creek commercial property along U.S. Highway 24-40.

Dick Brauer, Linwood, a Realtor and appraiser, is keeping an eye on the area's growth.

"There have been lots of changes in real estate," Brauer said. "I can remember when you sold a five- or 10-acre plot for $1,000 an acre. You felt like you were living high on the hog."

Today it's not uncommon to pay $5,000 an acre to put housing on rural land.

Costs of construction materials also are driving up housing costs, Brauer said.

"One hundred sheets of Sheetrock costs $1,000 now," he said. "That's a dollar a foot. Used to be you could buy a sheet of Sheetrock for $3. That's a 70 percent increase. It's gone up that much just in the last few years."

Brauer also noted that, while the values of the existing homes in Tonganoxie continue to rise, that's not necessarily good news for those who own them.

"Your values of housing will increase a lot, but you can't afford to sell it because you'd have to replace it," Brauer said.

In Basehor, Steve Rosenthal, Realtor with J.C. Nichols, said business is good.

"It looks great all over," Rosenthal said. "We just need more to sell."

Stalling new construction in Basehor is the city's future new sewer system, expected to be in place in about a year.

"When that comes in, it's going to be a great asset," Rosenthal said.

The attraction to the area comes not only from being able to get a little bit better buy in southern Leavenworth County, but also because of highway improvement and the schools in the area.

Older homes in Tonganoxie are selling well, too.

In fact, Rosenthal said, "Anything is selling good in Tonganoxie and Basehor if you price it correctly."

Most of the buyers are coming from the Kansas City area, Rosenthal noted.

"We're getting a larger influx from Johnson County because they can buy a lot more home for their money here."

But overall, Rosenthal reiterated, "It's just a nice livable area that's what the appeal is. And it's close to city convenience."

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