Numbers don’t lie, but statistics can either tell one story or another—depending on how you look at them. Nowhere is that more apparent than the University Club, an upscale community that shows some impressive growth and also some troubling trends.
Developed in the early 2000s, the Villages of University Club Plantation is a master planned community of six so-called villages clustered around a private golf course and country club. Once a thriving sugar cane plantation, the 1,200-acre site now includes homes that range in price from the mid-$300,000s to more than $1.2 million, which makes it attractive to a cross section of buyers.
The subdivision has grown in just a few short years, and statistics show the area remains healthy. But how healthy?
On one hand, activity has clearly slowed. The biggest indicator is home sales, which fell from 43 in 2006 to 40 in 2007 to 28 in 2008, a 30% decline. As of Feb. 1, there were 25 homes on the market—almost as many as those sold last year.
“That means it’s a buyer’s market, especially for new homes,” says Don Stern, an analyst and Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mackey Company.
A closer look at the numbers shows why. Consider that in 2008, of the 28 homes that sold, 11 were new and 17 were existing homes. That means new homes were absorbed at a rate of slightly less than one a month, while existing homes sold at a rate of about 1.5 per month.
Of the 25 homes in the development currently on the market, 15 are new constructions and 10 are existing homes. If the 2008 rate of absorption remains steady, that means there is a 16-month supply of new homes on the market compared to just a six-month supply of existing homes.
The trend that Stern is seeing in University Club is not unlike what he is seeing in other new developments.
“In terms of the resale market segment, things are still healthy,” he says. “We just have too many high-priced, new homes available. Too many builders put too many expensive homes on the ground. The population earning six-figure salaries is not that great.”
Suggesting that University Club is doing quite well, however, are sale price statistics. The median sale price last year was $500,000, slightly lower than $532,000 in 2007. What’s more, the highest- and lowest-priced home sales in ’08 were slightly higher than the previous year.
Perhaps even more significantly, activity in the first month of this year has been higher than expected. Four homes sold in the first six weeks of the year; though that’s a statistically small sampling, the median sale price was higher than in any previous year.
“We had a slow fall in ’08,” says David Richardson, a builder and real estate agent who sells in University Club. “But since the holidays we have closed on six new constructions, and they’re selling for the list price and the values are holding quite well.”
So which set of statistics tells the real story of University Club? Again, it depends to whom you talk.
“In the past six months, 11 homes have sold and seven of those were from September to December following one of the worst hurricanes to hit our area,” says Linda Fredericks of RE/MAX First. “This is awesome.”
Stern is more sober in his assessment.
“It’s a neighborhood that bears watching,” he says. “I still think it’s healthy, but we need to manage inventory and sell through it before we try and put any more on the ground.”
For residents of University Club, the area has several amenities, chief among them are large lots with new homes and a safe environment for children. Cherie and Chase Chassaignac, who bought a 4,100-square-foot home in the development four years ago, love that their sons have more than a dozen playmates on the cul-de-sac on which they live.
“It’s a great atmosphere for families and kids,” Chase Chassaignac says.
Many residents also enjoy the private club that sits at the heart of the development. Though access to the club—which includes a golf course, tennis courts and swimming pool—is not automatically available to residents, they can join as members.
One perceived drawback to living in University Club is its location, on Nicholson Drive just north of the Iberville Parish line. The community is 10 miles from downtown Baton Rouge and five miles from the services at Bluebonnet Boulevard and Burbank Drive.
Chassaignac says getting to and from the subdivision is not a problem.
“Nicholson is also easy,” he says. “I can make it to work downtown in just 15 minutes.”