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Toll Brothers announces new housing development in Lake Forest

June 19, 2012|By Alejandro Lazo | This story has been updated, as indicated below.
  • Luxury home developer Toll Brothers will partner with builder Shea to construct more than 2,000 new homes in Lake Forest.
Luxury home developer Toll Brothers will partner with builder Shea to construct… (Toll Brothers )

Underscoring the housing market’s recent recovery, Toll Brothers said it will begin work on a master-planned community in Orange County this year.

The luxury home developer will partner with builder Shea to construct more than 2,000 new homes in a new housing development called Baker Ranch in Lake Forest, according to a news release. The development will be a mix of single-family homes and rental apartments.

The development spans 40 acres of open space and will include a central park, walkways and bike paths. The development will rise on what Toll Brothers describes as “the last significant portion of the roughly 5,000 acres of land acquired by the Baker and West families in the late 1950s, which has evolved into most of what is today's City of Lake Forest.”

[Updated at 3:12 p.m. June 19: Orange County’s housing market appears to be on the rebound with both prices and sales increasing. A shortage of homes for sale on the market has helped fuel a competitive housing market this year.

Toll Brothers, based in Horsham, Pa., is the nation’s largest luxury homebuilder and the newly announced plans are among the largest the company has undertaken in California. The company acquired the land from the Baker family.

Seth Ring, a Toll Brothers vice president in Orange, said in a phone interview that the recent rebound in housing gave the company confidence to move forward with the deal despite the tentativeness of the recovery. The first homes will be on the market in two years with development getting underway in the fall of this year, he said.

“We look at the market near Lake Forest and we see that new home sales are very strong,”  Ring said. “What we do is we look at the macro environment and we have to take a risk, but so far we really like the foundation that is there: great schools, good location and the master plan itself.”

Patrick Duffy, principal of MetroIntelligence Real Estate Advisors, said the announcement was significant because Toll Brothers is a brand name and an industry leader in luxury home production, making it an ideal partner for Shea Homes.

The renewed interest in large-scale development of homes in Orange County also means that builders are increasingly confident that the move-up market for homes is beginning to recover, Duffy said. Much of the largely scarce development in Southern California since the housing market tanked has been in the Inland Empire, where builders have focused on small, affordable properties that can compete with foreclosures.

“It is the most promising news announced since the bust and since we have had this very slow turnaround,” Duffy said. “This is the first big announcement of this kind where they are going after the upper-end buyer, so I think there is the assumption that people are going to be able to sell their existing homes and pull out their equity to move up.”]

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