After two years of cleaning up its land holdings and balance sheet, The Fieldstone Group of Companies is building again in southern California under the name Fieldstone Homes.
The Irvine, Calif.-based business has acquired land in four towns—Dana Point, Encinitas, San Marcos, and Santa Margarita—where it will build 58 homes of varying sizes and price points. David Greminger, FieldStone Homes’ president, tells Builder that his company expects to close 43 homes in California in 2011, compared to zero last year.
“We never decided to stop building” in California, says Greminger, whose company also builds homes in Utah and Texas. “We spent the last two years working through the land inventory on our books and winding down projects.” He said that some projects were completed, others mothballed, and land was either sold off or given back to banks.
The company sold its debt to investors who included Bill McFarland, the former executive vice president and director of The Irvine Co. Investors converted that debt to equity, and last year several of them went onto Fieldstone’s board, which appointed McFarland the builder/developer’s CEO.
Fieldstone has been developing land and building homes in California since 1981. “We’re a startup with a tangible history,” says Greminger. And its short-term goal as a “new” company, according to a prepared statement, is to operate an active land entitlement and development company in California, as well as separate home building operations in California, Utah, and Texas.
Greminger tells Builder that the company hasn’t decided yet whether it will develop land exclusively for itself. “Our preference is to be in land development again,” where it would offer finished lots to other builders. Fieldstone also wants to get into bigger projects. “Right now, we’re taking what the market gives us.”
When asked why Fieldstone is restarting its construction activies in the Golden State now, Greminger says that overall, southern California’s housing market “has bottomed out. But southern California is many different markets, and some of them have strengthened.” He notes that in the markets where Fieldstone will be building, there’s been virtually no new homes added in two years.
For the moment, its projects are decidedly modest:
•In Dana Point, it has six lots ranging from 8,800 to 13,600 square feet. The homes it intends to build there will range from 3,100 to 3,600 square feet and be priced in the $800s to the $900s.
•In Encinitas, where it acquired an unimproved site, Fieldstone intends to build energy efficient cottages with ocean views. The lots range from 2,713 to 5,454 square feet, and the bungalows will be between 1,747 and 2,199 square feet and sell in the $700s to $800s.
•In San Marcos, Fieldstone has begun construction on 29 lots in the Rancho Santalina community. It will offer six floor plans ranging from 2,238 to 3,516 square feet, and the starting price will be in the high $300s. The first closings there are expected in early March.
•In Rancho Santa Margarita, Fieldstone is taking what Greminger describes as a “counterintuitive” approach to a market where there hasn’t been any new product built in two decades and where most of the existing housing stock is in the mid 2,000-square-foot vicinity. Fieldstone will build eight single-family detached homes that will average 3,500 square feet on 7,400-square-foot lots. Those homes, says Greminger, will sell in the $800s.
Fieldstone continues to look for new opportunities in Utah and Texas, where it still has sizable land inventories and where it’s been reopening and opening projects.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.