Toll Brothers home builder looking for new lots in low places
Farms and undeveloped land on the suburban fringe were long the go-to place when home builders looking to expand. But a big shift in buyer preferences in recent years has pushed the hunt into some unusual areas.
“It worked when the suburbs were popular,” Douglas Yearley Jr., CEO of Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s largest home builders, said of snapping up farms.
More buyers are seeking an urban lifestyle in walkable neighborhoods, and that has forced builders to get more creative about finding land, said Yearley, speaking to a journalism conference hosted by the National Association of Real Estate Editors at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver.
Failing shopping malls, tired car dealership, shuttered lumberyards and aging office buildings are just some of the venues the Philadelphia-based builder has turned to when it comes to finding land for new projects.
Yearley offered the example of a blighted waterfront under the Brooklyn Bridge owned by the borough. Toll Brothers teamed with Starwood Capital Group to clean up the land and build a 1 Hotel and more than 100 high-end condos.
Brooklyn used fees from the development to fund maintenance of an adjacent park open to the community.
Another example of creative redevelopment is the former Maxwell House Coffee plant in Hoboken, N.J. Once the largest coffee factory in the world, operations there wound down in 1992. Toll Brothers, after cleaning up the land, started selling condos late last decade.
Yearley said another notable trend has been the continued shift in new home construction westward. Long known for building in the mid-Atlantic region, more than half of the company’s new home sales come out of Texas, Colorado and states to the west.
“The hot markets are in the West,” he said.
Multi-generational housing, which allows different generations to live together with a greater degree of privacy, are growing in popularity, especially among immigrant families, Yearley said.
So too are smart homes, which incorporate technology that gives owners the ability to monitor and control systems and appliances via mobile devices.
More higher-end homes, which Toll Brothers specializes in, are blending indoor and outdoor living spaces. That includes using more open and glass-heavy back walls that lead into outdoor spaces that incorporate design features from inside the home.
Although the design works best in places like California, it is showing up in more parts of the country, Yearley said.