National home builder D.R. Horton thinks it has a strategy to invigorate home sales at Cobblestone Park, the gated golf-course community in Blythewood that has gone through a series of developers since it opened 15 years ago just off the I-77 corridor between Columbia and Charlotte.
The home builder recently bought the 27-hole, semi-private golf course and 300 lots about a third of the tony community in Northeast Richland, which hasnt seen much activity since an initial build-out of less than 100 homes.
D.R. Horton will offer lower starting home prices than previous developers and hopes to turn the golf courses half-built clubhouse into a premier event venue for the community.
Were very excited about the potential, said Doug Brown, division president for D.R. Hortons Charlotte and Columbia region. He said the neighborhood was attractive because it is a beautiful community in a good area with good schools.
The company began marketing lots in the community on its website this week and hopes to begin building next month. Home prices will range between $250,000 and the mid-$500,000s, Brown said. That is below the $400,000- to $1.2 million-price range the Ginn Co. was asking in 2008. Ginn was the last developer to make a major push to sell homes in the fledgling neighborhood before the Great Recession tanked the economy and home-building market.
How long it will take D.R. Horton to fill out its 300 lots is unclear.
Our intention is to meet the market out there and put product out there, Brown said. It all depends on the market.
After bottoming out in 2011, Columbias real estate market has improved over the past year. In the first 11 months of 2012, sales rose 18 percent in Columbia, compared with the same period the previous year, according to the S.C. Realtors trade group.
D.R. Horton also plans to finish Cobblestones clubhouse, only partially built. We are working with the town of Blythewood to get permits in line, Brown said.
He said the clubhouse will be open some time in 2014. It will include a pro shop, a restaurant and bar, and will serve as a venue for large events, including weddings and golf outings.
The neighborhood already has a number of resort-style amenities, Brown said, including swimming pools, tennis courts, an indoor gym with basketball courts and walking paths.
Cobblestone opened as the University Club in 1995, featuring a golf course and a plan to build homes. The first family moved in in 1999, two years after the original developers sold the community to The Fripp Co. The community was sold again in 2004 to the Ginn Co.
Ginn, a resort community developer owned by S.C. native Bobby Ginn, went to elaborate measures including helicopter rides to bring in buyers. Nearly 800 lots were pre-sold during a blitz and at least 500 of those deals closed some to investors looking to resell the lots for a profit. But the worst recession in a lifetime, which hit the Columbia housing market in 2008, hurt resale and building efforts.
Ginn, facing financial woes, sold the community to Linger Longer Development of Georgia. Linger Longer officials this week declined to comment on Cobblestone.
D.R. Horton bought the development from LRA-UC Cobblestone LLC, which is based in Atlanta and bought portions of Cobblestone in April 2011, according to Richland County property records.
D.R. Horton would not disclose its purchase price, and public records were not immediately available.