I remember when- It was about 7 years ago and we had just finished a very successful 75-unit townhouse project in Palm Beach Gardens. It was an unusual product because the homes were 30 feet wide allowing for a two-car garage and plenty of floor planning variety. Basically, I was spoiled with all two car garages. After that we were building a lot of single-family detached homes in Davie and were able to acquire a bank project for 51 town homes.
There was one big problem– The only problem with this project was it needed to be more affordable and 30-foot widths hampered our density. The wider units meant we had to achieve similar financial goals on less units. This meant that it would not be affordable. My architect convinced me to look at all one car garage units and 22-24-foot widths. He explained to me that having a two-car driveway was almost as good as a two-car garage. I was al little nervous as the big recession was not that far in my rear-view mirror, and after all it was a former bank piece of REO (real estate owned) from the recession.
One garage, no problem. Was I pleasantly surprised? Not only was it a quick sellout (that’s Davie though) we did not need to decorate our models either. We stored the furniture and kept my designer’s notebook and decided to look for another town home site in order to duplicate our success. And, yes, we did just that 18 months later in a B+ site in West Palm Beach. The floorplans were identical, 50 units instead of 51 and the same clubhouse as before. As a B+ location our sales volume was slower so we decorated the models using the stored furniture and settled in for a slightly slower sell out.
What converted me to not being afraid of the one car garages? Of course, success helped, but it was a wider vision of town home living. It was not so much the two-car garage that was important, it was a two-car driveway. Most town home dwellers use their garages for storage and park two cars in the driveway at all times. Or, at least one car in the driveway full time. With so much cheap mini storage around – “stuff” can be stored off site. The narrower inside floorplans were nearly as large in total square footage because the downstairs room forward where the second car garage would have gone gave the first-floor abundant space. With some minor cantilever upstairs the one car homes were almost as large as the 30 footers. Remember, we are selling A/C square footage (space inside under air-not garage space).
If the square footage was nearly the same where is the cost advantage? There was a slight advantage with less garage space and only a one car garage door. But the real advantage was that with less width our density was higher so a greater number of units was spread over the land cost. Instead of 38 thirty-foot units we ended up with 50 -twenty-two- & twenty-four-foot homes. More importantly, our unit selling prices were lower thereby appealing to a larger buying public.
What’s in store for today’s market with higher prices and costs? In order to stay affordable, we will be designing town homes at 18-foot-wide widths and single car garages and single car driveways. We will also have 24-foot end units with two car garages. This project model is working today, but it really has no where else to go in the future in my opinion. Stay tuned.
Stephen Gravett has been a real estate developer for over 45 years and was most recently CEO of Kennedy Homes for the past 11 years. He is currently full time Director of Operations for 5 Star Developers. He is a State licensed broker and since 1980 a State licensed General Contractor Unlimited. Before becoming a real estate developer, he flew B-52’s in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War.