GS Carolina developments hit slowdown

Fort Mill Township now feeling economic fallout

Jonathan Allen and Jenny OvermanJuly 22, 2008 

As the subprime mortgage crisis seeps into the local housing market, some larger developments in this area are beginning to feel the pinch.

Two major projects being developed by GS Carolina have slowed to a near standstill over the summer, though sales agents on site at Massey on Doby's Bridge Road say the market is beginning to pick back up. They expect to see more of a rush as the summer winds down and the first day of school approaches.

"My feeling from my conversations with (GS Carolina) is that they're writing off 2008 as a deep breath in the market," Fort Mill Planning Director Andy Merriman said. "In 2009 it will probably start to pick up again."

GS Carolina did not return calls from the Fort Mill Times for comment.

So far only a handful of houses, including model homes, have been erected in Massey, but the developer has not stopped installing the infrastructure necessary for the first phase, which consists of more than 300 residential lots and a community center. Subsequent phases of Massey cannot begin until the Fort Mill Southern Bypass is open, because of S.C. Department of Transportation rules.

"Most of the roads for the first phase are done," Merriman continued. "In fact, we just released a portion of their bond because of the completion."

Eventually, Massey will include approximately 1,000 homes ranging from $250,000 to more than $1 million. It also includes approximately 20 acres set aside for an elementary school.

It's not the only Fort Mill development seeing a slow down.

"The first phase of Riverchase has been approved, but they aren't moving forward with platting it yet because their builders can't get financing right now," Merriman said.

According to Merriman, developers nearing completion of a project are more likely to push the last bit of development through even with uncertainty in the market, while those just getting started are more likely to hold off until market conditions improve.

However, sales agents in Massey said business is starting to pick up.

Two weeks ago M/I Homes, one of the Massey builders, had sold eight homes since February, according to sales agent Joyce Buchanan. Three of those sales had come during that week.

"The economy had an impact, primarily because folks that want to come here can't sell their homes in other parts of the country," Buchanan said. "Most of what we're seeing are local moves from Mecklenburg County. The schools are a big draw."

The first homeowners will be moving in to Massey at the end of the month, and Buchanan expects business to continue to pick up.

Tiffany Davis, a Ryland Homes sales agent, concurs. In recent weeks Ryland, the other phase 1 builder, sold three homes, Davis said. A fourth sale fell through, though, because the buyers couldn't unload their current home.

"I have a lot of people in the pipeline that can't sell their houses," she said.

Buchanan said April was the slowest month for M/I, while Davis said June was slowest for Ryland, which is also building homes in Edenmoor in Indian Land. Both are looking forward to a predicted market turnaround that is supposed to be coming at the beginning of 2009.

The second phase of Edenmoor, a residential development near the intersection of Hwys. 75 and 521, is on hold. That's not unusual for a large development, said Lancaster County Planning Director Chris Karres.

"It's fairly common," Karres said. "It just takes a little longer sometimes than they may have thought. Especially the way the housing market has slowed up, I'm not really surprised."

The EMS Station and Recreation facilities under construction at Edenmoor are not affected, Karres added.

When complete, Edenmoor will contain 1,900 homes.

Meanwhile, both Ryland and M/I have cut down on their "inventory," or speculation, houses in Massey. Each company has built about half a dozen spec houses, which can be ready for move-in in 30 days. It takes each company about six months to build each home, but both are waiting to line up more buyers before pushing ahead with more spec homes.

"Building per month depends on how many I sell," Buchanan said. "As soon as I get the contract written, we start getting permits, which takes about 30 days, then five months to build."

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