New Homes are Still Selling in Madera, Despite High Unemployment

Third in a Four-Part Series

Madera County, which has seen the peak of the housing boom, now wallows in the valley of new home construction and sales.

Linda Lewis, Madera Office call (559) 675-5904, email -

Linda Lewis, Century 21 M & M Real Estate Agent, a Madera native and 30-year realty veteran, several years ago witnessed the ups that attracted national builders such as K. Hovnanian Homes and Lennar Homes.

“Anybody that built a subdivision in California came to Madera County,” said Linda.

Lewis then witnessed the lows, when new home construction crashed and subdivisions were deserted and abused.  “It’s a mess,” said the Century 21 M&M Realtor.  “As far as subdivision sales, it’s come to a screeching halt. Many were abandoned, have graffiti and are fenced off.  I wouldn’t touch one with a 10-foot pole.”

New home construction at Villa Granada, an 82-lot development by Capistrano Homes in west Madera, continues at a slow pace.  The subdivision originally broke ground in 2006.

According to Mark Finbrez of Madera Realty, the project has four homes under construction, with two sold.  He said 51 lots are still available.  The homes range from 1,322-square feet to 1,600-square feet and are priced from $159,000 to $179,000.

“We plan to build three or four every few months,” said Finbrez. “Unless things really start to pickup.  Things could pickup this summer.”

Linda Lewis said she closed 60 resale residential homes in 2009 and is hoping to match that total this year.  She said in 97 percent of her sales last year, a bank was the seller.

“They’re buying entry-level homes and they’re buying them from the bank,” said Linda.  “They’re not buying them from the sellers.”

The trend toward entry-level homes resulted in a drop in the median price — half sold for more and half sold for less — of Madera County homes.  According to the Multiple Listings Service, the median price home in November 2009 was $143,500, compared to $165,500 for November 2008.

Esther Riffel, Madera Office, call (559)675-5941, email -

Esther Riffel, a director of the Madera Board of Realtors and fellow Century 21 M&M Madera office agent with Lewis, has slowly been selling off the remaining homes of the foreclosed Rose Hollow subdivision in northwest Madera.

Map to Rose Hollow Madera, CA

“It’s been 1-1/2 years, a long process,” said Esther about sales at Rose Hollow.  “We started out with 13 and I have one in escrow and three remaining houses.”

Riffel said the homes are all over 2,000-square feet with four and five bedrooms.  The prices range from $235,000 to $265,000.  Some of the original prices approached $450,000.

The new Rose Hollow homes appeal to buyers that value a 10-year warranty on the structure, a brand new and never lived in house, and the desirable northwest Madera location.

“There’s a good quality of life,” said Esther.  “It’s a good place for raising a family.”

Rose Hollow, said Riffel, had built out approximately 150 homes and still has about 50 empty lots available.  She’s not too optimistic about construction starting anytime soon on the lots.

“I’m guessing five to six years,” she said about construction starting again at Rose Hollow.

Esther Riffel and Linda Lewis agree both resale and new home sales are hampered by Madera County’s high unemployment rate.   Lewis specifically noted the jobless rate in Firebaugh and Mendota.  “Their unemployment rate is as high as 40 percent,” she said.

NEXT FRIDAY: New housing forecast for 2010

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