…is bundled in three subdivisions off Burbank Drive, just south of the LSU campus, where affordable price tags are attracting buyers ranging from young professionals to older couples looking to downsize.
In many ways, Hunter’s Trace, Lake Villas and The Willows at Bayou Fountain are your standard, everyday American subdivisions, filled with recent college graduates, young professionals and newlyweds moving into starter homes, as well as older couples downsizing into smaller, more affordable houses.
It’s that near-universal appeal, and, more importantly, affordability, that make these subdivisions—all tucked in the corridor off Burbank Drive and between Lee Drive and Highland Road—among the “hottest” in East Baton Rouge Parish, based on units sold over the past three months, as well as average days on market and months of inventory over the same time period.
It may come as little surprise that Baton Rouge’s three hottest subdivisions are all in the under-$350,000 market, considering the numbers make it clear homebuyers aren’t gobbling up million-dollar-plus homes—a sector of the market that in July, as reported by Business Report, had amassed a nearly two-year supply of inventory.
Shelley Simmons of CJ Brown Realtors, ranking the three neighborhoods in no particular order, says they’re all “hot” for reasons largely tied to price point.
“There is still a very diverse base of buyers,” says Simmons, who chaired the residential committee for the 2019 Trends in Real Estate report. “What they have in common is that they’re newer.”
Further fueling demand is the until recently limited supply of starter and smaller-sized homes priced below $350,000. There are several developments in the Zachary area that come in at that price-point which, along with that area’s top-ranked public schools, makes them hot-sellers as well, and the same can be said for pockets of Livingston and Ascension parishes. Still, none are moving at the pace seen along Burbank.
Between May 1 and July 31, Hunter’s Trace saw 27 homes sell for an average of $245,456 each, going for some $89 per square foot. Homes sat on the market an average of 46 days—nearly two weeks less than the parishwide average (59)—leaving its seven active listings with an incredibly low 0.77 months of supply.
It’s neck-and-neck with the nearby Lake Villas, where 31 homes sold within the same timeframe. Buyers paid a slightly higher average price of $248,647, or $142 per square foot. The neighborhood’s 11 remaining active listings bring its months of supply to 0.90.
The two neighborhoods are similar in more ways than one: All 58 of their combined sales between May and July were for DSLD-built, new construction homes that hovered near 1,800 square feet of living space. Similar sales prices aside, Hunter’s Trace and Lake Villas are two-and-a-half miles away from each other in the bustling LSU-area corridor.
Also located just south of LSU—and, arguably, another top contender for the “hottest” residential area in the parish—is The Willows at Bayou Fountain, which currently boasts zero months of supply after 15 homes sold. They sat on the market, on average, for 23 days, while two active listings remain.
What’s different about Willows at Bayou Fountain, however, is the comparatively high average sales price of its homes: $333,507, or $167 per square foot. And, while not a DSLD community, its homes were built by competitor Alvarez Construction, a similarly prolific developer.
“There’s a definite preference for newer construction over older construction,” Simmons says. “With that being said, the affordability component is what’s driving the hotness of new construction below the median parishwide sales price [of $250,000.]”
What’s the draw?
Mortgage rates are low—and dropping—and available inventory is rising, but despite the slow shift toward a buyer’s market the home sales remain stagnant. In part, experts say higher downpayment demands, relatively flat wages and young professionals carrying higher levels of student loan debt is partially responsible for the drag.
It’s a story playing out across the greater Baton Rouge area, where houses priced above $400,000—and especially older ones—are not moving, at least not quickly. Yet, what’s interesting—and somewhat counter-intuitive—is that while the supply of houses on the market keeps creeping higher, the area’s median sales price not only isn’t falling, but it’s also climbing, according to the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtor’s June 2019 report. In East Baton Rouge Parish, the average sales price is up to $ 265,000.
Because of this, several subdivisions have been rolling along, offering moderately-priced homes in desirable pockets of south Baton Rouge and other parts of the parish that generally attract homebuyers.
As with Hunter’s Trace, Lake Villas and Willows at Bayou Fountain, many of the “hot” ones today are off Burbank.
Allyce Trapp, director of governmental affairs for the Home Builders Association of Greater Baton Rouge, says she bought her University Villas home because of its close proximity to LSU, where she attends graduate school part-time. Hers was among 13 sales that closed in the neighborhood between May and July, also making University Villas among the 4% of neighborhoods selling more than three homes per month.
She liked that the house was relatively new, and that she knew and trusted its builder, Scooter Stafford.
“I didn’t want to have to buy an old house and maintain it on my own,” says Trapp, 25. “It can be a hassle with an older home, always having to repair and replace things.”
Millennials generally prefer newer homes, appraiser Winston Landry previously told Business Report, a trend to which he largely pointed as a reason for the local oversupply of million-plus dollar homes.
Fueling the heat
Since the 2008 recession, four builders have dominated this market—DSLD, D.R. Horton, Level Construction and Alvarez Construction.
They all have the ability to simplify the financing process, making it more streamlined and convenient for buyers.
The Denham Springs-based DSLD constructs homes—typically ranging in price from $160,000 to $275,000—in more than 120 communities throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas. To reach its consistent goal of completing 3,000 homes annually, the company utilizes an “even flow system,” starting and finishing 15 to 18 homes every week and buying an average of 250 lots per month, every month.
D.R. Horton, the Texas builder behind local communities like Pelican Lakes, specializes in constructing homes for first-time buyers and empty nesters, boasting the most sales among national builders in the U.S. since 2002.
The fast-growing Level Homes, meanwhile, built its empire during the 2008 recession, forging key partnerships that would enable the development of several master-planned residential communities and allowing them to emerge from the recession as a formidable homebuilder.
Other than Willows at Bayou Fountain, Alvarez Construction, a nearly 30-year-old builder, has constructed Fieldstone Park in East Baton Rouge Parish and The Sanctuary at Juban Crossing in Livingston Parish, among others.
Business Report was unable to reach the builders for comment prior to publication.