I have spent the last couple of days looking at data, and I'm thinking how bad it's been but I'm hopeful that the worst is past
The developer behind Fearrington in Chatham County is, for the first time, offering buyers set floor plans instead of custom built homes.
Fitch Creations launched a new 20-acre neighborhood in February called Knolls. Buyers can choose from four different model homes to put on the one of the neighborhood's 28 lots.
Greg Fitch, vice president of Fitch Creations, said the change came after the company noticed that buyers had become less interested in going through the process of building a custom home.
He attributed the reluctance to the fact that some builders and developers in Chatham and elsewhere didn't live up to their promises in recent years.
"I think people heard horror stories," Fitch said. "They had assumed previously that a builder or developer couldn't go bankrupt. But in fact they can."
Offering models instead of custom homes also allows Fitch to offer more affordable homes.
Prices for the four models range from $319,000 to $355,555, or between $400,000 and $440,000 when you factor in the cost of the lot.
In the past, Fearrington custom homes had been in the $600,000 to $700,000 range.
National home builder Lennar is ramping up building in a new community in western Wake called The Park at Westlake.
Park at WestLake will offer homes ranging from 1,926 to 2,586 square feet with prices starting in the $250,000s.
Lennar plans to hold a grand opening for the community later this month.
Park at West Lake is located east of Sunset Lake Road near Middle Creek Park. It's right on the border between Cary and Apex.
Lennar is one of a number of national builders who have become more active in the Triangle in recent months, both in buying land and building new houses.
Others include Toll Brothers and Standard Pacific Homes.
While many smaller home builders remain in survival mode, large publicly traded home builders have cash thanks to a change in the tax rules and their ability to access the markets.
Orange County commissioners have approved a plan to raise impact fees in each of the next four years.
The fees are intended to raise money for schools needs and vary by home type and differ by school system. But some increases are dramatic. By 2012, a developer building a new single-family home in Carrboro or Chapel Hill will pay $11,423. That's up from $4,407 now.
In the county, the fee on a single-family home will increase from $3,000 now to $5,623 in four years.
Some builders say the impact fees, particularly in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, will act as a deterrent, and one commissioner, Pam Hemminger, wondered aloud Thursday night whether raising fees so much would actually reduce revenue if builders simply stopped doing business here.
"If we raise the rates and get zero income, that's not a good plan," she said.
Omar Zinn, a local builder, told commissioners Thursday night that home sales are down 30 percent or more and many of his colleagues in the business are hurting.
"I know it's been seven years since we've had an increase," Zinn said. "But to have it at this time - to say it's a bad decision is an understatement."
You can read the entire rundown of fee increases for all types of homes on pages 2 and 3 of the attached document.