What are affluent homeowners who are downsizing from homes valued at $2 million to $5 million looking for?
One answer can be found at Saddle River Grand, a 23-acre community of 68 attached manor homes in Saddle River, N.J. Since breaking ground and opening its sales office in late 2011, Woodmont Properties, this project’s builder/developer, has sold 61 of these homes, priced from $1.2 million to $1.8 million.
This self-contained gated community features five house styles ranging in size from 3,800 square feet to 4,600 square feet excluding basements that can add another 1,000 to 2,500 square feet of living space. This community’s attractions include Saddle River’s property tax rates, which are the second lowest in Bergen County, one of New Jersey’s richest. In addition, this community offers attached housing in a market where multifamily—at least at the higher end of the price spectrum—is virtually nonexistent.
Saddle River Grand was in the making for 11 years, a bit longer than most residential projects in New Jersey. A lengthy approval process ate up more than eight of those years. “We were dealing with two townships that haven’t seen a tremendous amount of development lately,” says Eric Witmondt, Woodmont Properties' CEO, who spoke with Builder on Monday with Lewis Slotnick, Woodmont’s president. Woodmont Properties also put this project on ice for 18 months to wait for business conditions to improve.
Most of Saddle River Grand’s buyers so far have been local: Slotnick estimates that 95% live in the same county, and between two-thirds and three-quarters are from neighboring towns. Before it started Saddle River Grand, Woodmont had another project in nearby Montvale, N.J., called Enclave, which it built “during the depths of the recession,” says Witmondt. Enclave has a similar customer base, and it allowed the developer to observe what these buyers were looking for and to tweak its products and services for Saddle River Grand.
What it saw was a move-down buyer who still demands the same services and amenities, and who doesn't want to sacrifice quality or attention to detail. So Woodmont opened Saddle River Grand with two options coordinators and four superintendents on site. “Even though this could be considered tract housing, we’re treating it like a custom job because these buyers are affluent, demanding, and understand the difference between Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Viking,” says Witmondt, referring to three premium appliance brands. “But they also want a simpler lifestyle. The key for us has been to make sure we are communicating and executing exceptionally.”
Supporting Saddle River Grand are a clubhouse with exercise and yoga rooms, a pool and barbecue area, a mailroom, and a full-time concierge. Witmondt notes as well the front entrance that has a “virtual doorman,” which can be programmed to allow contractors into the community when homeowners who are having home-improvement work done are away. (Maintenance charges average $465 per month, says Slotnick.)
Originally, Woodmont Properties expected this project would take four years to complete; now, it’s projecting a two-year build out because sales have been so brisk. The company is currently looking at 10 to 15 New Jersey markets with similar demographics where Saddle River Grand’s sales velocity might be replicated.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.