Cherry Hill at Moorpark Highlands
Located just North of Moorpark, California is one of the few remaining new home tracts in what is called the Moorpark Highlands. The Moorpark Highlands is a very large area of new homes which includes a number of different tract communities built by several distinguished home developers. Ranging in ascending order of size and price these include Pardee Homes - Waverly Place condominiums (sold out); KB Homes - Sterling Heights Community of single family homes (sold out) and Toll Brothers - Country Club Estates at Moorpark (sold out).
I may be missing a tract or two, tucked away among the two massive hilltop areas, but Cherry Hill by Pardee Homes appears to be the last major new home development still actively building new 3 to 5 bedroom homes.
Cherry Hill homes are built to three basic floor plans and with 5 different styles:
French, Early Californian, Tuscan, Spanish Monterey and Coastal. Contact Pardee Homes at PardeeHomes.com to download pictures and floorplans of what these styles look like. Plan 1 homes are 2600 square foot homes, Plane 2 are 2900 square foot homes and Plane 3 are just over 3100 square feet (3500 square feet with optional loft).
The homes are located in a gated community and closely spaced up the side of a large hill on maybe half a dozen streets. Many of these home sites were built with an eye to a view of the surrounding mountains. I would say the views are above average for many new home communities.
The experienced new home shopper will note that model homes are usually lavishly upgraded with all the bells and whistles and do not always closely reflect a standard new construction home. It's also worth note, that if the developer goofed somewhere or just did something silly on a model home, then he probably did it more than once in succeeding homes.
Everyone wants to know price. These homes have dropped considerably in price. I have a price sheet from September 2008 and one from this week - March 2010. Here is what has happened in 1½ years.
Plan 1 - was $734,475 now $692,000 which is a 43K price drop
Plan 2 - was $775,400 now $689,150 which is a 86K price drop
Plan 3 - was $797,975 now $740,225 which is a 57K price drop
Wow! - kind of takes your breath away, especially if you were an original buyer. That is pretty typical of what has happened with most new construction. What an opportunity if you are just now in the market!
Along with the advantage of interest rates around 5% and both the 6.5% federal tax credits for current home owners and 8.5% state credits for current home owners buying new construction homes, makes this a very rare time for people who want to move up. It's the perfect storm for buyers of new construction homes. Unless the federal tax credit is renewed soon, it is set to expire for new offers at the end of this month (April 30).
What is bad about these prices. They do not include the Mello Roos that comes with each home. See my blog about Mello Roos for more complete information, but this is basically a way of taxing the individual home owners for city services - which include a new school district for the homeowners - but without having to call it a tax.
The Mello Roos runs about 1.9% of the home's purchase price per year. The good news is that the school district has seriously considered not accepting a new school site for Moorpark Highlands. I don't profess to be an expert about the local School District politics but I do know that most school districts are hurting for money right now like everyone else. They are not inclined to want to budget for more teachers, facilities and maintenance, even when they are mostly provided for by the Mello Roos.
What does that translate to for new home owners. Something even more rare in new home construction. A break on the Mello Roos. It could be a 30% to 40% reduction on the annual Mello Roos for those new home purchasers according to the sales counselors. Not sure what that does to class size in existing schools.
How big is Cherry Hill? There will be 149 units built total. A total of 4 -5 homes are now - or will be - available by the end of June in the 3 different plan models. Counting the 4 homes available, I believe there have been a total of 92 homes already released for sale or sold. Mostly sold. That figures out to about 60% of the last new homes are built and sold. Just over 50 homes have yet to be built at Cherry Hill.
Plan 1 has the master bedroom downstairs and it usually opens onto the back patio. There is a second bedroom at the opposite corner of the home which would make an excellent "granny flat" or bedroom for a teenager with a loud music problem. The second bedroom has it's own full bath and is wedged between the garage at the front, and a den or optional 3rd bedroom as you move back towards the center of the house.
The den can be an office or built as another bedroom. There already is a formal living room and another family room, so this room has many good possibilities depending on your needs.
The kitchen is one of the primary home status symbols and is of course quite nicely done. In keeping with other new home developments, the kitchen faces the family room so that Mom can enjoy conversation with her guests/family while preparing all the holiday meals. The family room and kitchen face out to the backyard through large windows, so the kids playing there can be observed without worry.
There is one upstairs bedroom with a full bath or it can be a loft/office with additional storage in what would have been the bathroom.
Things I liked.
The front entry has a closet. There are so many new homes being built without a cloakroom or front coat closet. I guess if you live in California, you aren't expected to wear a coat.
The master bath has the bathtub oriented out from the wall so that you can enter from either side. The two vanities are separated by the tub so you don't mix up your Rogaine with your wife's Clarol.
The large walk-in closet has two doors, one at either end, but guys know better than to expect to use any of it.
Things I didn't like.
The back yard is smaller than other models because there are more ground floor bedrooms for the same size lot as the other two model plans.
This home has a 2 car garage separated by the front door with a 3rd garage on the other side but facing parallel to the street. If there is any other car in the driveway, your aren't going to get a vehicle out of that garage. Makes a nice workshop though. Also, if both garage doors are open, it makes your home look more like a downtown parking garage.
The ground floor of this two floor home is laid out with the entryway facing a long hallway that runs beside the staircase as you walk to the rear of the home. There is a wall that separates the home into basically a front half and a rear half. Each half contains 2 rooms which open to the central hallway.
The formal living room is followed by the dining area and then the wall. On the other side is the kichen facing to the rear of the house through the family room. At the intersection of the kitchen and family room is a hallway running off to the left side of the home where there is small bedroom and full bath. There is also direct access to the 3 car, tandem garage from this hallway. This is almost a 3,000 square foot home, so there are 2 air conditioning units at the rear of the home. They are fairly quiet but are located just outside the ground floor bedroom. I think this location is unfortunate in terms of view and noise - which isn't bad - it just doesn't need to be that way.
Upstairs is a spacious family room / loft area which was modeled as a family room. It can be built as a 5th bedroom. Toward the center of the home and opening directly into the family room is a full bath with double vanities for the bedrooms and loft use. To the rear of the family room / loft is a doorway opening to a side to side hallway. Along the hallway are two separate bedrooms with their own doorways. At the far end of the hallway is the upstairs laundry.
The master bedroom is quite comfortably large and looks out upon the backyard. The master bath has a separate closet for the toilet, which might be a bit tight if you are inside trying to shut the door. The double vanity is side by side with the tub and shower enclosure immediately behind the sinks. There is a large single door walk-in closet at the far end of the master bath.
Things I liked.
The loft area is upstairs away from the family room downstairs. If adults are entertaining downstairs, the kids don't have to shut themselves away in their bedrooms, yet they are far enough away not to cause a noise distraction if they want to watch tv or play video games.
The back yard is considerably deeper than plan 1, since more of the bedrooms are upstairs in this model.
The street appeal is nicer in my opinion since you have only a 2 car garage door in front, along with a front door that is not tucked away between garages. A nice cut glass door or carved hardwood door can really enhance a home's appearance. Also the living room window fronts the home, so it is possible to see when family or guests have arrived.
The model had a nice balcony off the master bedroom with enough depth for table and chairs to fit comfortably.
Things I did not like.
The downstairs is not as open a floor plan as the plan 1. It has a strong front and back feel to it.
The coat closet is located under the staircase or worse, around the corner in the hallway leading to the back bedroom. That only works well if you come into the house from the garage.
The upstairs loft has a full bath directly off it. A half bath would work just as well. It forces the occupants of the two bedrooms behind the family room to walk through the family room / loft in order to use the bath or shower. That would also force the family room occupants to go downstairs or to the master bath to use a bathroom.
It's probably just me, but if you are carrying on a conversation with your spouse, while dressing/undressing in the master bedroom, it's going to be like listening to a train going by. One of you walks away from the bedroom to the walk-in closet, which is past the toilet closet, past the vanities and tub to the far end, where you walk through a single doorway and turn either right or left to find your hangar at either end of the walk-in.
Maybe they could install a walk-in closet intercom and video monitor?! Maybe have a satellite feed to the bedroom.
Also, if you had an infant, you would want to keep the little one in their crib with you in the master bedroom. A separate nursery would be rather difficult to reach quickly from the master and way far away from anyplace downstairs. This is a better home for older kids.
This is a puzzle palace. Don't get me wrong, it's a very comfortable puzzle palace and with the optional loft it can be pushing 3,500 square feet. It just doesn't flow. If you were in the Navy you would love it. Like a miniature cruiser, it has all these little hallways (passageways) and doorways (hatches). The upstairs bathrooms and laundry are tucked away in hidden places. You'd need movie theater lights to find your way around upstairs after dark. The bathrooms do offer better privacy and access to nearby bedrooms than the Plan 2. There is a downstairs bedroom but it is tiny and makes a better office or hobby room.
The downstairs is similar to the Plan 2 in that you have a definite front half and back half to the home, but the kitchen has a massive crescent shaped island that should have it's own zip code. There is also a breakfast nook that has two outside walls as it pushes out a bit into the backyard. There is plenty of natural light to eat your outmeal and yogurt by, (or eggs and bacon if you wife isn't watching).
Things I liked.
The living room is an actual room, not an area.
The kitchen has upgraded appliances and cabinet quality. The breakfast nook is fun.
The master bedroom can be built with a good sized balcony and the bedroom at the front of the house has a nice long balcony as well. Some of these homes have breathtaking bedroom and balcony views of the surrounding mountains.
Things I didn't like.
Besides the intricate floor plan, the master bedroom is directly above the large screen tv in the downstairs family room. Most of these homes will not have the optional upstairs loft, so late night entertaining will probably happen directly under your bedroom slippers in the
family room below.
These are very comfortable homes in a very scenic location. I like the room sizes for the most part, though some of the bedrooms are merely adequate. The homes are sensibly designed so that space is more often used for practical comfort rather than to impress. Even though there is a minimum setback between homes, you have a good chance of finding at least one room in your home with a view that includes more than your neighbors kitchen clock.
The driveways are usually large enough to accommodate at least 2 cars and there is a bit of front yard for most homes. Things just aren't as cramped as lower priced new homes tend to be and though the streets are still a bit narrow, you can safely park on them.
There is a good deal of flexibility in how you can have your home built and that adds a lot of creative individuality to the neighborhood. It doesn't have the production line feel of manufactured homes that so many other developments have.
This is a pleasant upscale community with quality homes and with a better than average location.
The prices are still considerable and the Mello Roos doesn't help, but if you can afford one of these homes you'll experience a very pampered Southern California lifestyle.
Happy House Hunting
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