Monday, July 30, 2007

Blackstone - Environmentally Friendly McMansions

Hubby and I have anxiously been awaiting the opening of Blackstone, a master planned community in El Dorado Hills (off Latrobe). They were scheduled to open early Spring, but Centex and Lennar didn't open till recently. Lennar is apparently running the show at this development. They have three communities, and Centex has one. The other developers haven't opened yet.

Our assessment as follows:

Pros:
Location: Great location. Convenient to the freeway and all that El Dorado Hills has to offer.
Community Center: There will be a large complex with swimming pools, gym facilities, and other ammenities that is the focal point for the community. Not slated to open till December 2007, but at the rate they are going, it will probably be spring of 2008.
Solar: All houses will have solar roof panels. Lennar claims their solar is better than Centex's. Also good, is this isn't their first experience with a solar community, they have one in Roseville.

Cons:
Fees & Taxes: We have been getting mixed stories on all the fees and taxes. The HOA fees do not cover yard maintenance but do cover the clubhouse. I think those run around $136 a month (per Centex). Lennar said they have a different HOA depending if the community is gated or not. The district taxes seemed really high, and slightly confusing (Centex said $147 a month, but Lennar made is sound like it would be twice that much). I need to get clarification on all the taxes still. The sales guys are still learning all the ins and outs of their community (so they are fuzzy on the CCRs and other details).
Very Limited Customization: While the base models all come very nicely "appointed," you cannot "have it your way." There is a very limited amount of choices, aside from the actual house model, that are offered. This is contrary to my understanding of the "new house purchase." I thought one of the most appealing parts of buying a new house was the fact that you get to pick everything out. In the case of Blackstone, especially Lennar, it has already been decided. All three Lennar developments will have the exact same cupboards, floors, etc. Hello.....we not drones....or are we? Neither developer has models that are finished. I find some of this hard to swallow, so I may go back and get clarification once the sales people have been on the job a little longer.
Price: While the prices are reasonable compared to resales right now, when you include the HOA and taxes it is still above what I consider a good value. We visited the Centex development in Roseville this weekend (we had never been to Roseville before) to look at the models since they are the same. The Roseville Avonlea development is less expensive, by 10-20k per model and doesn't have HOA. Unfortunately the two Lennar developments that were even close to our price range are both gated. The third high end development is not gated...go figure.

Personal Perspective: If I am going to buy a new tract house, this is probably where I would do it. I like the idea of a community center where I can take the kids swimming, and where they can hang out when they are teenagers. Our daycare center is also very close by. However hubbby is really turned off by the fees. In the current market, I'm sure it will take a long time to sell all they have to offer (especially at current prices), so I have plenty of time to decide.

For previous post see here.

11 comments:

buying time said...

Hey Cmyst -
Hope this review hits the spot for ya....now does this mean you are considering sticking around in EDH if and when you buy?

You will have to keep me posted on when and where you buy. I saw a very modern house in Orangevale on ZIp and thought of you. 6411 Kenneth...a bit pricey, but very unique looking from the pictures.

Patient Renter said...

"In the current market, I'm sure it will take a long time to sell all they have to offer (especially at current prices), so I have plenty of time to decide."

I was thinking about this too. You've probably heard of some communities where the HOA or mella roos are calculated as a percentage of some total amount that is needed to sustain the community. So as houses have gone into forclosure recently and fees are no longer being paid, the fees are raised proportionately for everyone else. I've been wondering if for new neighborhoods like Blackstone, which might take longer than originally expected to be built out (due to the downturn) if fees are or could at some point be calculated as a percentage of how many homes are currently built and/or occupied?

In other words, if the builders have an agreement with the county to pay so much money for mella roos but not enough homes are being sold and built, will the rest of the home owners end up paying higher fees? (all of this stuff is why i despite the idea of these fees altogether)

Sold in '05 said...

Just a side note:

As a current Roseville renter, with co-workers who live in EDH, I can tell you that utilities in that PG&E area are WAY WAY higher than mine are under Roseville Electric. One of my co-workers regularly runs $500+/mo electric bills in the summer. I have never had one over $200/mo for a similar sized house. Roseville Electric rates run between 8-10 cents/kilo-watt-hour depending on amount used. I'm not sure what PG&E runs per kwh, but I've been told it's nearly double. Saving several hundred $'s per month on electric bills over several summers would amount to some pretty big HOA fees or offset an increase in home price. Roseville isn't up in the hills, but still offers good schools, delta breezes and other benefits.

Cmyst said...

Thanks for the update! I was just wondering about it again, and here it is.
I really doubt that I'll buy up here, but I am very curious about these energy-efficient homes and how well they will sell. I went to the web page awhile back, after the first time you mentioned them, and it seems like I remember them saying that you could pick various customizing options. I would hate to live in a home that was like every third home in a development.
And someone on some blog mentioned that the old solar panels are much more efficient than the solar roofing tiles. If anyone has any information on the cost of solar-izing an existing house, I'd really love to hear it.

I am tracking 6411 Kenneth, and it is very sweet of you to notice it and think of me!
I did the drive-by, and it's not as snazzy looking from the street as the pictures seem. OTOH, it does sit back from the road a distance, and it's hard to judge without actually walking around. It just looks a little more "handyman" than I'd expect.
Sadly, I lost one of my long time modern homes. The house at 3333 McCowan Way went inactive, after being on the market for several months and dropping about 50K (I think). It was vacant. I'll miss it, and I hope it comes back on to MLS like some of the others have done.

Cmyst said...

I can vouch for Sold in '05 about PG&E. My summer bills up here are ginormous. SMUD was much kinder. Another consideration up here is water. Personally, I think everyone should pay for their water usage. I have always felt that Sacramentans were spoiled by not having water meters. I lived in Texas for years, in a very similar climate, and it would have been laughable to suggest that people get as much water as they wanted for a base price. However, be that as it may, we have to pay for our water up here and most Sacramentans don't.

Gwynster said...

Same with Davis. We're on PGE so plan on nasty utility bills if you move out here. No SureWest here either. It's all comcast and they know you don't a choice so the rates are higher then Sac central.

One more thing, gas is almost always 10 cents more per gallon even at the cheap stations.

serenity said...

on your question about solar roofs, my brother recently bought a house built by lennar in roseville and so far his electric bills have been averaging around $61.00 for a house with more than 3300 sq. ft of livable space. he says his solar roof generates about 14 to 16 kwh per day which is definitely a very nice feature to consider. if we decided to buy a new home, we would seriouly consider a lennar home.

while i would appreciate my own customization, what i have come to learn is the profit margin is insane on all upgrades or customizations you want to do on any house by any builder. if you are price concious as i am, i would go with a builder that actually includes many of the features that are considerd upgrades by other builders including centex, jmc, meritage, etc...

so, i would say give some serious consideration to purchasing a home with solar roofs for sure.

buying time said...

The monthly energy bill is driving several of our purchasing decisions. Its one of the reasons I favor Folsom over EDH (SMUD vs. PG&E). Its also the reason we are looking for a single story house.

The electricity bills for our rental blew my mind the first couple months. I started to wonder if the empty house next door was siphoning off electricity to grow pot. But then I talked to others and found out, ours bill is actually low for our sized house.

So if we are to stay in EDH, solar is the way to go.

Patient Renter said...

I just realized they are calling that place "Blackstone El Dorado". This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves ever... persons/entities who don't grasp the difference between El Dorado and El Dorado Hills.

El Dorado:

http://www.google.com/maps?q=El+Dorado,+CA,+USA&sa=X&oi=map&ct=title

Arsala Blog said...

We have a$7500 deposit of a Lennar home and the uncertaintity of it all is killing me. I would much rather lose $7500 in the short term, then lose everything if Blackstone community does not materlize. Now that centex got bought out by Lennar and cambridge and Parkland are balking and may not ever build, EVERYTHING is in doubt. The promise of schools, parks, etc. Other folks are still buying there, but I am just scared. What are your thoughts???

Buying Time said...

Arsala -

Unfortunatly I don't have much advise to give....everyone's financial and peronsal situation is different. Although, I doubt you would lose "everything" since you should be getting a house out of the deal. It will always be worth something.

Blackstone would be among my top choices if we were to buy new...but I have not done so because I was worried the development would not be completed. I have written quite a bit about Blackstone...just type it in the search box, and you can see some of the comment and other postings.

Good luck.