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Blount Street Commons nearly sold out as Raleigh townhouse market heats up

For years the Blount Street Commons residential project north of downtown sat idle, a victim of having launched just before the local housing market crashed.

But like a number of other long-delayed residential projects in the Triangle, it has come roaring back with astonishing speed.

Stanley Martin Homes, the Reston, Va.-based builder that acquired the remaining land in the development 11 months ago, has already found buyers for all but two of the 46 row houses and carriage homes it has room to build on just under 2 acres at the corner of Peace and Person streets.

“Most builders will have very … aggressive price increases to slow things down,” said William Smith, Stanley Martin’s general sales manager. “We had modest price increases to keep things what we feel is fairly priced. They just moved.”

The company started out offering units from the $350,000s to the low $400,000s. Thus far just six have closed, according to Wake County property records, with the average price for those units being $407,833. The remaining units under contract are expected to close within the next 90 days, Smith said.

The brisk sales reflect a surging market for townhomes in Raleigh’s core, where builders are paying top dollar for infill sites confident that they will find no shortage of buyers.

“I think there’s more demand just because taking raw land and developing it is getting to be so expensive,” said Ward Russell, president of Legacy Custom Homes. “ … If you’ve got the zoning and it allows you to put townhomes on it where you can put more front doors, from a business aspect it makes more sense.”

Through the first seven months of the year there were 94 townhome sales inside the Beltline, up from 59 during the same period a year ago, Triangle Multiple Listing Services data show. The average sales price of the townhomes that sold was $303,600, up from $272,600.

Demand is particularly strong near downtown, as buyers seek to be within walking distance of the emerging bar and restaurant scene.

“I think the townhome market downtown in the next five to 10 years is going to be phenomenal,” said Russell, whose company will begin building a 38-unit townhouse community on the edge of Oakwood next year.

Ward noted that the apartment construction boom now taking place in and around downtown will likely fuel demand. As renters get accustomed to living downtown and then get married and look to start families, they’ll want to become homeowners without giving up certain aspects of their lifestyle.

“I don’t think they’re going to live far from downtown,” Ward said.

Whether they will be able to afford it is another matter.

Blount Street Commons in particular is benefiting from the growing number of restaurants, bars and other shops along Person Street. It’s also benefiting from features offered with its units. Both the row and carriage homes have garages, with the carriage homes featuring three-car garages.

“That was a huge selling feature,” said Smith, Stanley’s sales manager.

The layout of Blount Street Commons and other new townhome projects also appears to appeal to buyers. The city’s new Unified Development Ordinance, adopted in 2013, requires townhomes to front public streets and mandates that a garage can take up no more than 50 percent of the front of a unit.

“So the way to make that work is put (the garages) on the backside,” Ward said.

One thing that will likely slow new townhomes near downtown is a lack of land. Many of the prime infill sites have already been developed or in the process of being developed.

With developers chasing after a dwindling number of sites, the price of land is only going to go higher.

By David Bracken, News & Observer