Real Estate: Weakened demand for new construction on the North Fork

03/22/2011 3:03 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sub-contractor Peter Klipp of Peter Klipp Drywall of Mattituck spackles the study of a new home as he talks to fellow builder Rob Gabrielsen.

Even at the height of the housing market boom, there was little large-scale new home development on the North Fork. And unlike many other parts of the United States where cheaply constructed cookie-cutter single-family houses were thrown up by the hundreds, new home projects in our area tended toward a limited number of higher end homes like the Highlands in Aquebogue development or vacation condominiums such as the Cliffside resort in Greenport.

But since the bust, even that small amount of spec development has come to a halt, says Rob Gabrielsen of Gabrielsen Builders in Jamesport.

“You just have to drive around the area,” he said. “You used to see ten or fifteen homes going up. That segment of the new home market has definitely been the hardest hit.”

Mark Boeckman, the owner of Boeckman Construction in Mattituck, agrees and says the slowdown has extended beyond subdivision projects to individual homes.

“I haven’t seen a set of plans for a new house for six months,” he said. “People seem to be holding off.”

New construction may have slowed down, it’s not completely moribund, according to Mr. Gabrielsen. His company is seeing more renovation projects than new home building, but they’re still building high-end homes.

Christine Owen of Owen Construction in Baiting Hollow observes that the extremely higher-end home market has not slowed significantly, but she’s noticed a difference in what people are looking for in a new home.

“Average customers are now tending to keep home size in conformity with neighborhood standards,” she said.

The scaling down of square footage isn’t the only significant trend in new home construction since the dip in the housing market took effect.

Mr. Boeckman has noticed that high-end home customers tend to consider environmentally friendly materials, although in his experience, ambitious “green” projects like geothermal heating have not always panned out as cost effective. His company has not yet installed solar panels in any new home construction project, but he expects interest in solar technology to increase in the future.

According to Ms. Owen, customers have shown an interest in adding the necessary infrastructure to allow going solar, but many are waiting for improved technology before they take the plunge.

While North Fork customers may not yet fully embrace solar and geothermal alternatives, there is a healthy interest in energy efficiency, says Mr. Gabrielsen.

“With the price of oil soaring, many customers are looking at natural gas if it’s available,” he said. “They ask about windows and doors. People are getting educated about these issues and it’s forcing manufacturers to come up with more insulation options.”
In addition to a focus on energy-efficient options, Mr. Gabrielsen says the trend towards open areas for working and entertaining continues.

“Even though people may sometimes go off at a tangent in terms of new home design, at the end of the day they come back to a traditional look. We get requests for traditional casings for doors and windows, exposed beams, the whole beach cottage-y look,” he said.

That traditional look can be achieved with some interesting new products that effectively mimic more costly traditional materials, such as wood, stone and cedar shingles.

Ms. Owen said many of her customers like the traditional appearance of a product that has the look and feel of clear premium lumber, but is in fact a maintenance-free cellular PVC trim. If properly installed it does not require painting and is ideal for anything from trim and fascia to detailed mill work.

“People definitely want products that look authentic but don’t require a lot of maintenance,” she said.

Some of the new products also offer significant cost savings.

“Traditional stone fireplaces are very popular and can be very expensive,” added Mr. Gabrielsen. “But you can use a more reasonably priced cultured stone that is a sliced real stone veneer. Products are much better these days than they used to be.”
Mr. Boeckman agrees that North Fork customers want the traditional look and he expects that preference to continue.

“They tend to want homes constructed with materials like granite, marble and tile,” he said. “We don’t do too much out here that’s out of the ordinary.”



5 Comment

  • Just a thought on solar (photovoltaics): Our family installed solar electric panels in March 2003 and haven’t paid a bill to LIPA since. They send us a check of $175- $450 a year for the extra electric we sell back to them! The idea of waiting for “improved technology before they take the plunge” isn’t needed. The current technology works great and by the time some newer technology comes I will still have in my pocket the $13,000 I have saved up until now. The people who have installed photovoltaic system all are thrilled with them. Try to find one person who regrets doing it.

  • THere was a lot of cookie cutter in Aquebogue and Calverton. I also include the mc mansions in Wading River.

  • Shame of it all is when Lilco and Keyspan merged they were supposed to start gas mains and services to customers homes.We waited and nothing happenend. Now National Grid bought Keyspan and still no attempt to run gas mains and services to oil gouged consumers. While National Grid is about to slash 1200 of its most experienced personel to make itself more attractive to a buyer what benefit has the consumer recieved. National Grid UK will sell it’s US assets and pick up it’s tidy profit and reinvest it in the UK. Who ever buys The Downstate part of Nat Grid while be buying a company with no experienced personel at all levels. It will buy a company with infrastructure problems in Queens and Brooklyn of monumental proportions. Why because all Nat Grid UK did was milk the company only to sell it off …..this will happen because Wall Street says it’s in the Grid’s best interest to do so.
    I wonder where the PSC is in all this…sleeping at the stick…Utilities have never been short term investment vehicles until deregulation, you bought utility stock reinvested the dividends and hopfully accumulated enough to supplement your income in retirement.
    The same goes for it’s employees usually they are lifetime employees. They learned the business from the bottom up. Supervision was promoted through the ranks and it worked! Now you have managment at all levels that no nothing about how to run a utility.
    And who suffers? You.
    The polititions rant about how we have to get off foriegn oil but make little effort to push utilities to move natural gas and help the American get the oil monkey off their backs..
    There’s so much money sitting on the sidelines , Issue tax free bonds with a decent return to pay the cost of running the mains and services. MAKE the banks offer low interest loans for the conversion work. They need to start spending some TARP money in the right places.
    This will create jobs not just for the workers in the trenches, but white collar jobs as well.
    You will need people to canvas neighborhoods, sell equiptment , process loans as well as equiptment installers ,maintenance people etc.
    It’s a shame, how we as Amreican citizens continue to be screwed by the peolpe who are hired by us to protect our interests in Washington and in our own backyard…..

  • THANK god(S) no large scale home developments on the north fork ————- i dont even think that MONSTROUSITY of a home on new suffolk (before the “third bridge”—which by the way when i last rode my bike down the avenue made the experience no where as beautiful as before that MONSTER WAS BORN) HAS BEEN SOLD YET(hey maybe that too can be used for a hollywood back lot) (it is working for the “downtown “hamlet”. (that still makes me LOL scott)

  • How, exactly, does one determine a hate crime? Were there too few swastikas?