Some in real estate, construction in Cape County prosper despite difficult economy

Monday, December 5, 2011

The developer of Jackson Ridge Estates says the subdivision is flourishing in tough times because it meets the needs of average homebuyers and maintains a positive relationship with the city.

Builder and developer Brandon Williams of Brandon O. Williams Construction Co. in Cape Girardeau received approval Nov. 21 for three more phases of expansion of the subdivision, which will bring the number of homes there to 80. He plans to have a total of 124 houses after two future areas are developed.

Janet Sanders, Jackson building and planning superintendent, said all the subdivision planning seen by the city in 2011 was by Williams. She said the bulk of residential building over the last few years has also come from him, as other developers have struggled to survive amid a national housing crisis.

"He has just been going gangbusters through the entire thing," Sanders said.

Williams said the homes in the neighborhood are targeted to two-income families. They average 1,400 to 1,600 square feet and range in price from about $159,000 to $170,000.

"Our prices are in a market that most families can afford," Williams said.

Bill Cole, owner of Realty Executives and president of the Cape Girardeau County MLS, a real estate listing database, said prices in Jackson Ridge fall into the "sweet spot" for buyers of new homes.

The average home sale price in Cape Girardeau County this year is $159,500, Cole said. Among 27 new homes currently listed on the market, the average price is $192,600 with the median price at $164,900.

Cape Girardeau County has fared better overall than many areas in the country in the last few years, Cole said. He said that while values of properties in the $300,000 and higher range have been most hurt, homes in the average range here have held their value reasonably well. In the first eleven months of 2011, sales were up about 3 percent compared to the same time period last year.

"It is fairly encouraging news overall," Cole said.

Williams thinks cost is not the only factor that people find attractive about Jackson Ridge.

"People like the Jackson school district," Williams said. "I think that helps us quite a bit."

Williams also attributes the success of Jackson Ridge to effective collaboration with the city of Jackson. He is working with them on a new project called Savannah Ridge West, which will contain homes "in the low 130s," off Lacey Street.

Williams said he and the city haven't agreed on every step in the process, but they have been able to work together amicably.

"Jackson has been really good to me and the company," said Williams. "I think we all have a mutual respect for each other."

Bob Schenimann of Schenimann Construction in Cape Girardeau said addressing current consumer needs, customer trust and word-of-mouth recommendations have kept him afloat.

However, he said he is working twice the number of hours per week than he was three years ago to survive.

"It has definitely slowed down," said Schenimann, who focuses on remodeling and roofing.

He said people are more strategic in selecting a reliable, dependable contractor and are making different building choices than they did in the past.

"People are fixing what they have now and waiting to see what will happen over the next year," he said.

Schenimann said more homeowners are doing work themselves and that many experienced tradesmen are unemployed or underemployed and are making low bids in the hopes of winning jobs.

"The area that we live in is saturated with people that have skills with their hands," he said. "The competition is fierce."

Mike Annis, owner of Annis Construction and a member of the Cape Girardeau board of appeals that helps regulate building codes, said a combination of factors keeps some companies going and agreed that finding a niche is important.

"You have to have something that somebody else doesn't offer," said.

To be successful in today's market, he said, contractors must be expert in financial planning, have strong negotiation skills and a good reputation. The willingness to take risks and a little bit of luck are important, too.

Annis estimated only about a third of developers and builders remain in the area, compared to times before the credit crisis and the rising cost of materials combined to cause many to fail. The ones that remain, he said, have worked hard to keep going and are likely "pretty good people."

"The cream has risen," Annis said.

salderman@semissourian.com

388-3648

Pertinent address:

Jackson Ridge Dr., Jackson, MO

Lacey St, Jackson, MO

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