The efficient, affordable home

How can a homebuilder offer the amenities buyers want, but keep the price affordable, especially in an area of nosebleed land costs like Bainbridge Island?

Perhaps by learning a lesson from car-builders, and improving worker efficiency by standardizing tasks.

“People think that a house that takes a long time to build is a better house, but actually, the reverse can be true,” said Dave Smith of Central Highland Builders.

“By the third time around, our carpenters know the plan by heart, and they’re hammering nails instead of reading blueprints,” Smith said. “They’ve pounded all the wrinkles out of it.”

He and partner Barry Keenan have applied what Smith calls the “assembly-line approach” to Stonecress Townhomes, a 45-unit project under construction on the north side of High School Road between Ferncliff Avenue and the highway.

And they are delivering some of the lowest prices on Bainbridge – from $224,000 to $289,000.

With a number of units nearing completion, the market has been responding favorably, with 10 pending sales in three weeks, and two more expected this week.

“We would have been happy to sell one a week,” said Tim Bailey of Windermere Real Estate, who is marketing the project.

While the prices create a sizeable pool of buyers – Bailey says a family income of $60,000 can potentially qualify – he said that “it has worked against us in a way, because people wouldn’t believe what they were getting for the price.”

Amenities include hardwood floors and wood-wrapped windows, which Smith said were included on the basis of market research.

“There is such an emphasis on counter-tops on the island, but they asked at Poulsbo Place (a similarly priced project), and what people really wanted were hardwood floors,” he said.

“But something has to give, and what gave was less flexibility for changes than other builders. It’s like what Henry Ford used to say – you can have any color you want, as long as it’s black.”

The project, which Keenan designed, features four floor plans, with two or three bedrooms and 2-1/2 baths, ranging from 1,639 to 1,254 square feet.

All offer propane fireplace stoves in a family room that opens off the kitchen, a rear patio and front porch, and storage under the eaves.

The homes are duplexes, with one common wall. Each has a one-car garage, with space on the street or in the driveway for a second vehicle.

Homeowner dues are less than $100 per month, Smith said, which will cover maintaining the landscaping and anticipated maintenance, such as a 10-year cycle for repainting and 20 years for re-roofing.

The development is on the south portion of an eight-acre lot, Smith said, with the northerly two-plus acres as open space. Similarly, the project does not touch the two easterly acres along Fernclif.

Stonecress is the fourth project the Bremerton-based Central Highland has done on Bainbridge. Previously, it built Weaver Creek off of Weaver Road, Summerberry Court off of Kallgren Road and and Fernbrook, off of Ferncliff.

The first Stonecress owners will move into their home on Sept. 24, Bailey said, with two others set to move in during October and “a steady stream after that.”

“Many of the buyers are ‘move down’ or ‘move in’ people from Bainbridge,” he said, “and we have some from the Kitsap Peninsula who can finally afford a place on Bainbridge.”

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