Downturn prompts flexibility

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Leroy Landhuis, developer of the 1,400-acre Lorson Ranch in southeast El Paso County kicked off construction when ABC’s Extreme Makeover — Home Edition came to town during 2007.

Since then, despite the pullout of several national builders who had committed to hundreds of lots, the community has seen 120 new homes occupied, 30 homes under construction and 168 future lots enter the construction phase this year.

“This has to be the most successful new community in town,” Landhuis said.

Landhuis Co. Director Jeff Marks works on the front lines, handling city and county entitlements and lot sales. And, like Landhuis, he is beginning to see signs of life in lot sales to builders.

“We’ve been successful in a tough market because we for several reasons,” he said. “We’re at the epicenter of multiple military installations — 60 to 70 percent of our buyers are military. Our activity level is also key: builders want to be where its’ busy — where the buyers are.”

He also said that projects like Lorson Ranch are one of the few places where developers can keep construction workers active on infrastructure projects.

“We’re keeping hundreds of people busy on curb and gutter, asphalt, landscaping, excavation and other improvements,” he said. “I think that builds confidence.”

Landhuis Co. also is trying to be flexible in negotiations with builders.

“For someone who wants five lots, we’ll sell them,” Marks said. “For a company that wants to take 20 lots at a time, there’s a better price. So far, Journey Homes, for example, has done two deals of 20 lots each during both May and June. Premier Homes is also buying lots on a regular basis.”